Justice partners launch action group to improve access to justice

TORONTO, June 4, 2014 /CNW/ - Justice sector partners met on June 3 for the inaugural meeting of TAG – The Action Group on Access to Justice, a forum to foster collaboration on initiatives to make justice more accessible. The meeting took place at Osgoode Hall in Toronto.

Through TAG, organizations with similar goals will connect, share knowledge and build solutions to improve access to justice for Ontarians. The Law Society of Upper Canada will act as facilitator and provide administrative and other resources to support the forum.

During the meeting, close to 100 attendees representing the courts, government, academia, lawyer and paralegal associations, service providers and organizations with mandates to improve access to justice shared examples of collaborative initiatives and worked to identify processes and priorities for TAG. The results of the discussions are being compiled into a draft plan for finalization at subsequent meetings.

"Ontarians need to be able to access their justice system in a timely fashion in ways that they can understand and at a price they can afford," says Thomas G. Conway, Treasurer of The Law Society of Upper Canada. 

TAG is a key component of the Law Society's new access to justice framework, through which the Law Society is re-focusing resources to play a greater role in helping Ontarians with legal problems.

"Expanding the Law Society's role in improving access to justice has been my primary focus for the last two years. To launch TAG, and see not only the Law Society's commitment but the commitment of so many others to making TAG a success, is a tremendous end to my term as Treasurer. Collaboration is the only way we will be able to make substantial and lasting change," says Treasurer Conway.

See the attached list of examples of TAG collaborative initiatives. See also the TAG report: Legal Organizations and Access to Justice Activities in Ontario and other information at www.lsuc.on.ca/TAG.

Additional information from TAG partners is available upon request.

Examples of TAG Collaborative Initiatives

Child Protection Internship

The Child Protection Internship is a pilot, specialty legal course offered by Osgoode Hall Law School in partnership with Legal Aid Ontario and the Ministry of the Attorney General. The course is designed to develop students' understanding of both the practical and theoretical aspects of child protection cases and provide innovative and collaborative experiential learning opportunities. The course consists of a classroom component and three to four practical rotations with mentors drawn from Legal Aid Ontario's Family Services Centre, the Office of the Children's Lawyer and Children's Aid Society offices.

Handling Everyday Legal Problems – Information to help you make good choices

Handling Everyday Legal Problems is a plain-language, quick-reference legal information guide for the public. It provides brief descriptions and contact information for legal information sources and free and low-cost legal service providers in the province. The guide was distributed, in French and English, through Toronto Life magazine and community publications across eastern and central Ontario. It will also be distributed through justice sector partners and community agencies throughout 2014 and is available on the Law Society website in an accessible format.

Handling Everyday Legal Problems is an initiative of the Ontario Civil Legal Needs Project partners: The Law Society of Upper Canada, Legal Aid Ontario and Pro Bono Law Ontario, with the financial support of The Law Foundation of Ontario.

LIFE – Legal Information for Everyone | A PLE Toolbox

LIFE – A PLE Toolbox is a series of eight modules that have been developed to provide support and guidance to lawyers and paralegals who are interested in delivering public legal education (PLE) sessions in their communities. Each module includes a video (available with described video and closed captioning) and other materials — printable checklists, handouts and information sheets — that provide tips and practical tools for delivering relevant and engaging legal information sessions to the public. The materials are available through the website, lifetoolbox.ca, in both French and English.

LIFE – A PLE Toolbox comprises resources produced by The Law Society of Upper Canada, the Ontario Justice Education Network and Community Legal Education Ontario. The project is made possible through the support of the Ontario Civil Legal Needs Project partners: Legal Aid Ontario, Pro Bono Law Ontario and The Law Society of Upper Canada, as well as the financial support of The Law Foundation of Ontario.

Mental Health and Addictions Strategy

Legal Aid Ontario's Mental Health Strategy (MHS) is developing several innovative partnerships outside the traditional justice system to benefit mental health clients.

These include partnering with:

  • The Mental Health Commission of Canada to develop Canada's first comprehensive mental health training program for lawyers and front-line legal staff;
  • The Canadian Mental Health Association of Ontario and the Provincial Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee to develop a "quick intake" questionnaire tailored to the legal sector to consistently identify high-needs clients with intersecting complex and mental health needs;
  • ConnexOntario Mental Health and Addictions Hotline to leverage Connex's comprehensive database of Mental Health and Addiction services, Domestic Violence services, and program availability / bed management.

Right to legal services in French

You have a legal issue – You speak French is a brochure that explains people's right to French legal services and summarizes related, helpful resources. It was produced in French and English and distributed in courthouses throughout Ontario. A second brochure and additional resources for lawyers and paralegals describe lawyers' and paralegals' responsibilities to advise their clients of their language rights.

You have a legal issue – You speak French and the resources for lawyers and paralegals were produced in partnership by the Government of Ontario, The Law Society of Upper Canada and the Association des juristes d'expression française de l'Ontario with the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Shared Steps Project

Shared Steps is a project in development by Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO). It will present practical and easy-to-understand legal information online as a series of steps or guided paths to help people work through their everyday legal problems, together with relevant referral information.

CLEO plans to work in collaboration with other producers of public legal education and information to develop the content and structure of the site. The project will also result in "shareable" content that other organizations — such as community organizations, government departments, and legal clinics — can embed into their own websites. This will enable people to find the Shared Steps information through the web entry point of their choice.

SOURCE: The Law Society of Upper Canada

For further information: Media contact: Denise McCourtie, dmccourt@lsuc.on.ca, 416 947 3362



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