The province’s Access to Justice Coordinating Committee (A2JCC) has fulfilled its mandate and released its final report on Jan. 16, 2019, outlining its work over the past four years, including the committee’s efforts to help launch a new institute that supports access to justice and law reform work in Nova Scotia.
As outlined in its Terms of Reference, the A2JCC was expected to provide leadership for a cohesive and collaborative approach for access to justice initiatives in Nova Scotia; to provide, as appropriate, a forum for engaging the public and public sector participants; and to share information, monitor and coordinate the work undertaken, and educate the public on the committee’s efforts. It fulfilled these commitments through two important partnerships, both launched in 2016.
First, the A2JCC partnered with NOVA SCOTIA 211 >> to provide a navigator for Nova Scotians looking to access justice, legal and other related programs and services across the province. A government-funded system, 211 is a free service that allows people to call, text or go online to connect them with the public services and social programs they need.
Second, after a presentation from the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society, the A2JCC agreed to convene a second phase of the Society’s #TALKJUSTICE >> project, with the goal of engaging the public and incorporating first voices from people’s experiences with justice. #TalkJustice 2.0 began as a six-month pilot project, with the hope of incorporating the engagement tool as a permanent means to gather feedback for government and community justice organizations to draw from when making policy and funding decisions. The new institute has agreed to continue this public engagement work going forward.
The A2JCC was instrumental in opening free legal clinics at courthouses throughout the province. There are now clinics operating in Halifax, Sydney and Yarmouth, with a fourth opening in Truro in February 2019. This model relies on volunteer lawyers and law students to provide support and free legal advice for individuals representing themselves in court on certain types of legal matters before the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. LEARN MORE ABOUT THE FREE LEGAL CLINICS >>
The committee also discussed the idea of non-profit law firm that could help address the lack of affordable legal services for those who earn too much to qualify for legal aid, but not enough to retain private counsel. The Schulich School of Law has since included this innovative idea in its most recent FOUR-YEAR STRATEGIC PLAN >> and has established a working group to consider the feasibility of such an initiative.
Access to Justice & Law Reform Institute of Nova Scotia
Formerly the Law Reform Commission of Nova Scotia, the new Access to Justice & Law Reform Institute will continue to make recommendations to update, clarify and simplify the law and improve the administration of justice; however, it will also take on projects aimed at improving access to justice, like #TalkJustice. This work will include gathering and analysing data to help develop projects associated with government priorities, such as how to work collaboratively on access to justice initiatives, generating new policy goals, and developing legislative proposals to accomplish those goals.