CBABC’s Agenda for Justice and BCLI’s Financing Litigation Legal Research Project

8 February 2017

By Valerie Le Blanc

On February 1, 2017, the BC Branch of the Canadian Bar Association (CBABC) released its report, An Agenda for Justice (PDF), containing more than 30 recommendations for reform to strengthen and improve access to justice in British Columbia. The report calls for corrective action by the province in four key areas to address issues of both hardship and uncertainty faced by people who engage with the justice system today. Those key areas are:

  • Effective Access to Justice;
  • Support for BC’s Families;
  • Public Safety and Community Fairness; and
  • Stability for Business.

On the issue of Effective Access to Justice, the report states “the costs of engaging with the justice system are prohibitive for many people and there is a lack of resources to support those who cannot afford to pay for legal representation.” The topic of how the cost of legal representation impacts access to the justice system is of interest to the BCLI’s ongoing Financing Litigation Legal Research Project.

About the Agenda

The CBABC developed its report from both research and previous submissions made to government to offer “concrete suggestions for action that will make a tangible difference for British Columbia’s families, businesses and communities.” To achieve effective access to justice, the report suggests changes are needed to make laws more practical for society, as well as to ensure the resolution of legal disputes through the justice system are “provided in an efficient, measurable and cost-effective way.”

The report’s recommendations

To facilitate Effective Access to Justice, the report proposes increased funding for legal aid services, and improved court staffing and infrastructure. Among the recommendations to address the cost challenge of accessing the justice system includes eliminating the Provincial Sales Tax on legal fees to reduce the financial burden on those who face difficulty paying for legal services. The report also supports continuing legal aid innovations that offer legal advice and coaching services for self-represented litigants. The use of unbundled legal services, like advice and coaching, is one of the mechanisms for financing litigation examined in BCLI’s ongoing study.

The CBABC’s report goes on to provide a list of additional recommendations in each of the key areas identified above, and provides its endorsement for the implementation of four BCLI reports as a way of achieving the goal to improve access to justice in British Columbia. For more information on the CBABC’s report, An Agenda for Justice, click here.

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