Access to Civil Justice

In Hryniak v. Mauklin, the Supreme Court of Canada recently called for a “culture shift” to promote timely and affordable access to justice. As a step in this direction, the court broadened the interpretation of summary judgment rules.

The problem is that civil justice is too expensive. The consequence is that people either give up on justice, represent themselves, or look for alternatives.

One alternative gaining popularity is private arbitration. But when this option is used, justice ceases to be a public thing and the common law stagnates.

Another alternative is using paralegals, who can represent clients in Small Claims Court for lawsuits up to $25,000. But Small Claims Court does not mean that the legal issues are simple. Are paralegals sufficiently trained to handle complex contractual disputes or duty of care analyses which might arise in small claims court?

As part of the solution, the Supreme Court of Canada recently called on lawyers to facilitate access to justice. The court specifically stated that lawyers should consider their client’s limited means, the nature of their case, and fashion proportionate means to achieve a fair and just result. A trial should no longer be seen as the default position.

If you have a legal problem, I recommend calling a new lawyer. New lawyers are rigorously trained in the law and usually offer better rates than their more seasoned colleagues. New lawyers are also usually more effective with technology, and can pass savings onto their clients.

Don’t give up on civil justice.

By Alan Honner
Barrister & Solicitor