Access to Justice Week in BC

From A2J Week: The aim of the week is to inspire engagement in the access to justice movement and to plant the seeds of change to benefit all Canadians.

Access to Justice is at the crux of what we’re doing here at LawMatters. Working in partnership with public libraries, with the generous support of the Law Foundation of BC, we work towards providing local access to the basic legal information that BC residents need.

There is so much great work being done in BC on this front! Check out Access to Justice BC to learn more.

We’ve also been inspired by and continue to learn from other folks doing similar work in jurisdictions across Canada. We do this through our engagement with the National Trusted Intermediaries and Legal Information (TI-LI) Network, and we thought A2J Week would be the perfect time to tell you about this collaborative effort we’ve been working on!

About the Network

Collaborators: Brea Lowenberger, Director of CREATE Justice and Access to Justice Coordinator, Melanie Hodges Neufeld, Ministry of Justice, Dayna Cornwall, Project Coordinator, National Self-Represented Litigants Project (NSRLP), and Megan Smiley, LawMatters Program Coordinator, Courthouse Libraries BC.

The National Trusted Intermediaries and Legal Information Network started as a collaboration among members from the Saskatchewan Access to Legal Information Project (SALI Project), the National Self-Represented Litigants Project (NSRLP), and Courthouse Libraries BC’s LawMatters Program.  Since its inception, the network has grown to 80+ members from 9 jurisdictions across Canada.

The creation of a National Trusted Intermediaries - Legal Information Network seeks to improve access to plain language legal information and affordable services through community workers who act as trusted intermediaries, such as court services staff, librarians, and social workers.

The importance of ongoing coordination, information exchange, and collaboration across Canada in supporting and creating capacity for community workers is supported by research such as the Trusted Help ReportThe role of community workers as trusted intermediaries who help people with legal problems, and, as it states, by “[r]esearchers and academics in Canada, the UK, Australia, and the US”, who have “documented the trusted intermediary approach to helping to address common legal needs”. Recently, the  Community Justice Help: Advancing Community-Based Access to Justice report proposes a new approach for enabling community workers (as non-legal professionals) to provide assistance for law-related problems.

Through the Network, we can better learn and understand the ways in which trusted intermediaries, such as librarians and other community workers, can advance access to justice, and how we can better support them. Building off of the Trusted Help Report and Community Justice Help Report, we aim to:

  • Use the network to promote information exchange and robust conversation across Canada online and through monthly virtual meet-ups
  • Provide opportunities between trusted intermediaries and justice sectors to reciprocally learn how best to meet the needs for legal information
  • Identify areas to collaborate to produce webinars and other training opportunities for trusted intermediaries that address unique and overlapping needs of the public and trusted intermediaries in urban, rural, and remote areas
  • Avoid unnecessary duplication of efforts, seeking to pool resources and collaborate on projects wherever possible
  • Discuss strategies around a national advertising/public engagement campaign, to make the public more aware of public libraries and other sites with trusted intermediaries as an ‘access to justice entry point’
  • Share information about best practices around technology infrastructure and triage systems among community workers, libraries, public legal education associations, and Law Society/University Library systems, so that good referrals can be made and credible and plain language legal information is at everyone’s fingertips
  • Inform the implementation of data projects and common evaluation tools that measure the impact and legal information provision needs of community workers and the public they serve
  • Identify how lessons learned through partnering with this type of trusted intermediary (i.e. librarians) could apply to partnering with other trusted intermediaries

Get involved

We are interested in serving as conveners of people who are interested in the role of community workers in improving access to justice for Canadian citizens, and are seeking suggestions, ideas, and input to build this Network. Please email us to join our online Basecamp platform, and to share your interest in joining the Network. Send your name, role, organization, and if you wish, a sentence or two indicating your objectives/interest in joining to any one of the collaborators listed below to be added to the platform.

  • Brea Lowenberger, Director of CREATE Justice and Access to Justice Coordinator
  • Melanie Hodges Neufeld, Crown Counsel, Innovation Division, Ministry of Justice
  • Dayna Cornwall, Project Coordinator, National Self Represented Litigants Project (NSRLP)
  • Megan Smiley, LawMatters Program Coordinator, Courthouse Libraries BC