Members of two national organizations spearheading efforts to improve access to justice in Canada and the United States met at the Supreme Court of Canada on April 27 to advance co-operation and renew their shared commitment to the cause.
The day-long event at the Supreme Court of Canada building in Ottawa brought together members of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Access to Justice and the steering committee for Canada’s Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters – including Professor and Associate Dean, Research & Institutional Relations Trevor Farrow.
The action committee is chaired by Supreme Court of Canada Justice Andromache Karakatsanis. Chief Justice of Canada Richard Wagner serves as honorary chair.
“Both organizations are very active in working to improve and promote innovations in access to justice at the local level and through shared global partnerships and collaborations,” said Farrow, who also serves as chair of the Osgoode-based Canadian Forum for Civil Justice (CFCJ).
“During the meeting,” he added, “we explored shared interests and initiatives with the Office for Access to Justice, which was re-established under the administration of President Joe Biden.”
Farrow has been involved with the Action Committee on Access to Justice since it was established in 2007 by former chief justice Beverley McLachlin. He played a key role in the writing of its 2013 report, Access to Civil & Family Justice: A Roadmap for Change.
The report defined nine fundamental goals to improve access to civil and family justice in Canada, including addressing everyday legal problems, making the courts work better, improving funding strategies and building capability and innovation in the justice system.
“The action committee’s work has been at the centre of a growing movement around access-to-justice research and reform, which lines up directly with the UN’s sustainable development goals,” he said. “It’s regarded as a leading collaborative voice around the world in its efforts to promote people-centered justice.”
The mission of the U.S. Office for Access to Justice, according to its website, is to “help the justice system efficiently deliver outcomes that are fair and accessible to all.”
Known by the acronym ATJ, it works “within the Department of Justice, across federal agencies and with state, local, and tribal justice system stakeholders to increase access to counsel and legal assistance and to improve the justice delivery systems that serve people who are unable to afford lawyers,” notes its website.