As we approach our annual summer office closure (August 9-27), it’s always a good time to reflect on what we’ve been up to, and what lies ahead.
NSRLP now has a higher level of service and productivity on behalf of SRLs and those who work with them than ever before.
But … despite our growth, and the emergence of other new programs and services for SRLs, we are still not even close to meeting the needs of those trying to navigate the system alone.
So where are we on moving the needle forward on Access to Justice in Canada?
We have had six months of intense productivity at NSRLP.
We have been producing new research reports like crazy this summer, the result of our work over the past six months. We don’t want you to miss any of them! So here is the current list:
- Costs awards against SRLs
- Costs awards in favour of SRLs
- How gender characterizations are used in evaluating female SRL behavior
- Obtaining a court transcript
Fall 2018 we shall be releasing:
- A report on the impact of Pintea v Johns in the 15 months since the Supreme Court of Canada decision (because we know that this needs monitoring)
- A greatly expanded directory of Provincial Resources for SRLs (all provinces and territories, lots of new resources)
- An updated A2J International Bibliography
- A new season of our podcast, Jumping Off the Ivory Tower
NSRLP is growing. We have been applying for, and obtaining, outside funding. And we have thus expanded our fabulous – dedicated, talented – team.
- Project Coordinator Dayna Cornwall begins her two -year public libraries project this fall (“Family Law in the Library”, funded by the Law Foundation of Ontario). NSRLP, working with our local city and county library systems, will figure out the best ways to make the library a real resource for family SRLs (librarian training, new resources, public legal education, dedicated space etc.).
- Moya McAlister has taken over the role of Project Coordinator from Dayna three days a week (thanks to Windsor Law for this funding support). Moya brings great experience in public relations and community development, and after less than a month in-house, she already feels like an indispensable part of the NSRLP family. Moya is also the Project Lead on an upgrade and revamp (funded by the Canadian Bar Association Future Fund) to enhance the accessibility of our ten SRL Primers.
- NSRLP “original” Sue Rice continues work on planning for the 2nd Dialogue Event coming up in October.
Our team of part-time student research assistants is the largest we have ever had.
- Megan Campbell is leading the SRL Case Law Database team consisting of Ashley Haines (who is also working on a projected child protection project), Antonia Hristova, Joanna Pawlowski & Rebecca Flynn
- Ali Tejani is our social media student lead who works with Moya on expanding the reach of our social media platforms and podcast
- Kaila Scarrow handles our large and ever-increasing number of incoming NSRLP communications via gmail, FB and phone. Kaila also just completed our new research report (above) on obtaining a court transcript (with Becky Robinet)
- Brauntë Petric is our podcast Intern from the School of Communication, Media and Film
A Bottomless Pit of Need
NSRLP was just a pipe dream five years ago. In the ensuing five years, I believe that we have helped to create a space that simply did not exist before – for a debate over fundamental change – in legal practice, in the regulation of the legal profession, in court processes and procedures, and in harnessing new technologies in the service of A2J.
Yet we still feel most days like we have our fingers in the dike, just holding back the deluge of need, exasperation and even despair experienced by so many self-represented people – and some days, we are underwater.
Many Canadians, at all levels of income and education, are angry that the justice system does not work fairly and that they are disadvantaged by their inability to afford legal counsel. Many people are isolated and afraid of what might happen to them, their lives and their children as they try to navigate a complex and unfriendly system without help. The intensity of that anger continues to grow. There is more recognition of the problems by the legal profession, more programs and services, but still nowhere near enough to meet the level and extent of needs that we hear every day.
Let me be clear – those of us who work for NSRLP are doing this because we too are outraged at the impoverishment of A2J in Canada, and the subsequent exclusion of so many people from procedural and substantive justice.
In the last six months we have talked a lot within our team and with our terrific Advisory Board members about how NSRLP can be most effective in our primary mission, which is advocating for the needs of people without representation in the family and civil courts.
We face difficult strategic and practical choices every day at NSRLP about how to “move the needle” on real change.
- How to genuinely feel the pain of the dispossessed majority in this country who cannot afford A2J, and at the same time accept that we cannot single-handedly change this, and keep reaching out to those with the experience and power to help us to fix it.
- How to offer practical, concrete resources and assistance while explaining our limits: that we cannot provide legal representation or advice.
- How to channel our own frustration that, the system isn’t changing faster into building alliances between insiders and outsiders: who need to work together to create reform.
We invite you, the readers of this blog, to weigh in on how NSRLP can maximize our effectiveness and leverage our still limited resources.
A Stubborn Hope
We recognize how big the challenges are. The legal system has not faced this much change in 150 years. There are a lot of self-interests in play. There is a lot of power concentrated within the existing system. But the public is increasingly vocal that the status quo – in family court people without expert assistance are now the majority group, with similar numbers in some civil and appellate courts – is not acceptable as “Canadian Access to Justice”
We are committed to holding, enlarging, and democratizing the space NSRLP -created in 2013 for honest debate among all the stakeholders about real change – not just window dressing, not just small pro bono programs (important though these are as a transition measure) but fundamental system change.
At NSRLP, we refuse to give up hope for a better system.
We believe that small steps are better than no steps, and will lead to larger strides.
We know that there are many good people – both insiders and outsiders – who want that too.
Dear Reader: please stick with us, and help us to make a difference in the legal system – and note that you can make an individual tax-deductible donation to help NSRLP keep moving the needle forward. As you can see from our output, we make every dollar count!
We welcome your comments but they will not be moderated immediately due to our summer office closure.