Region North America

National Report

Summary of Contents


Canada is a federation consisting of ten provinces and three territories extending across the top of North America from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and northward into the Arctic Ocean. Canada’s southern border with the United States, stretching to almost 9000 Kilometres, is the world’s longest bi-national land border.

1.1. Form of Government

Canada is a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy in the Westminster tradition, with a monarch and a prime minister who serves as the chair of the Cabinet and head of government. Each of Canada’s ten provinces and three territories has a similar governmental structure. The country is a realm within the Commonwealth of Nations and a member of the Francophonie. Canada is a member of several major international and intergovernmental institutions or groupings including the United Nations, NATO, OECD, the G7, the Group of Ten, the G20, and many regional (CUSMA, CPTPP, CETA) and bilateral free trade agreements.

1.2. Demographics, Ethnic Groups, Languages and Religions

Canada is the world’s second-largest country by total area but as a whole is sparsely populated by 37.59 million people. The majority of its land area is dominated by forest and tundra. Its population is highly urbanized, with over 80% of its inhabitants concentrated in large and medium-sized cities, and 70% residing within 100 kilometres of the southern border.

Canadian society is highly diverse. Indigenous peoples have inhabited what is now Canada for thousands of years before European colonization. Beginning in the 16th century, British and French expeditions explored and later began settling on this land giving Canada its bilingual (English and French) and bi-juridical (civil law and common law) foundation. At the federal level all government services and federally-regulated companies must make their public services available in both official languages. Canada has begun to acknowledge and make amends for its colonialism through constitutional recognition of Indigenous rights, truth and reconciliation initiatives, the fostering of various forms of Indigenous self-government, adoption of some Indigenous legal practices, and broader decolonialization efforts. Much work remains to be done on this front.

Canada is also a highly multicultural society, the product of large-scale immigration over several centuries, and is home to people from many countries representing a vast array of linguistic, ethnic and religious groups. There is no official religion.

1.3. Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

The economy of Canada is a highly developed market economy. It is the 10th largest economy by nominal and 16th by purchasing power parity. The IMF reports Canada’s GDP in trillion US dollars for the last ten years.[1]

Chart 01. Canada GDP for the last ten years (2008-2018)

1.4. Human Development Indicators

According to the UN Human Rights Development Index, Canada is rated as having very high development and is ranked 12th in the world in 2018.[2]

Chart 02. Human Development Indicators

Human Development Index 2017 Human Development Index 2016 Life Expectancy
at Birth
Expected Years
of Schooling
Mean Years of Schooling Gross National Income per Capita
12th – 0.926 12th 82.5 16.4 13.3 $43,433

1.5. Canadians Living in Poverty

The most recent national statistics report that in 2017, 9.5% of the population lived below the official poverty line (down from 10.6% in 2016 and 12.1% in 2015).


3.1 Criminal Procedure

3.1.1. Criminal Investigations

Police are responsible for conducting criminal investigations. At the investigation stage, police gather and review information to figure out what happened. This may involve, for example, examining the place where the crime occurred and talking to victims and witnesses. Based on what they learn, police decide whether there is enough evidence to prove an accused committed a crime. If they think there is, they may make a report to Crown counsel recommending that charges be laid. Like Crown counsel all police activities, including investigations, must be done independently.

Here are the common steps in a police investigation:

  • The investigation begins when a crime or an incident is reported/known to police.
  • Police gather information from the victim, witnesses and other people involved.
  • Police may ask the victim to complete a statement.
  • Police may ask witnesses to complete a witness statement.
  • In some situations, police may also examine the crime site to get any physical evidence. This may include forensic evidence.
  • Police review the information collected and decide what action to take.

Canada is served by highly-trained police forces at the municipal, provincial and national levels and with specialized investigation branches in metropolitan areas as well as nationally as part of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

3.1.2. Criminal Prosecution Proceedings 

Criminal procedure is set out in federal legislation, the Canadian Criminal Code, and is therefore relatively consistent across the country. The British Columbia Provincial Court prepared the following criminal case flow chart, which provides a good basic overview of the criminal process in Canada.[1]

There are three types of offences (crimes): Summary Offences, Indictable Offences, and Dual or Hybrid Offences. Less serious crimes use what is known as the “summary conviction process”. The court process is simpler and the penalties are lower. More serious crimes proceed “by indictment”. Many crimes are “dual procedure” or “hybrid”, meaning the Crown chooses whether it will proceed summarily or by indictment. A jury is only available in very serious criminal matters.

3.1.3. Consistency with the Rule of Law

The Canadian criminal justice system is generally compliant with the rule of law and due process. These rights are guaranteed under the Charter and accused persons have the right to plead violations of these rights in every case. Where these claims are successful, the accused has the right to an effective remedy (e.g. exclusion of evidence, mistrial). In addition, Charter claims often result in systemic changes in laws, policies and procedures since a finding of unconstitutionality must be fully remedied.

A longstanding concern has been the over-representation of Indigenous peoples both as victims of crime and within provincial and federal penitentiaries.[2] Canada has been subject to criticism by international treaty bodies for the “disproportionately high rate of incarceration of indigenous people, including women, in federal and provincial prisons across Canada”, as well as obstacles faced by Indigenous people in accessing justice.[3] The UN Human Rights Committee has urged Canada to “strengthen its efforts to promote and facilitate access to justice at all levels by indigenous peoples”.[4]

Another recurring concern is unreasonable delay in the criminal justice process. In 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada revisited this issue and rejected the framework traditionally used to determine whether an accused was tried within a reasonable time under section 11(b) of the Charter, replacing it with a presumptive ceiling of 18 months between the charges and the trial in a provincial court without preliminary inquiry, or 30 months in other cases.[5] Canadian governments, courts, crown prosecutors and other criminal justice system actors are taking active steps to reduce delays so that the criminal justice system can comply with this decision. Some examples of responses include improved case management techniques, court rule changes, and additional public investments.

In 2019, the Canadian government passed legislation enacting reforms aimed at making the criminal law and the criminal justice system clearer and more efficient, including by:

  • streamlining bail processes to ensure fair and swift access to justice;
  • creating a new process to more effectively and efficiently deal with certain administration of justice offences, including for youth;
  • reclassifying offences to provide prosecutors with the discretion to more efficiently deal with less serious conduct, freeing up limited judicial resources;
  • restricting the availability of preliminary inquiries to the offences carrying the most serious penalties to ensure criminal cases can proceed more efficiently to trial, and to reduce the impacts of testifying twice on victims;
  • improving the jury selection process to make it more transparent and promote fairness and impartiality; and
  • providing judges with more robust tools to manage the cases before them.[6]

3.2. Civil Procedure

3.2.1. Overview of Civil Procedures

Each Canadian court has adopted rules of civil procedure which set out the steps to be taken in a civil matter and many courts tailor litigation steps to different types of litigation (based, for example, on complexity of the matter). In general, these are the steps in a civil action:

  • Bringing a claim
    • The plaintiff prepares a statement of claim (e.g. notice of civil claim in BC), which contains a concise statement of material facts on which the plaintiff relies. The court issues the statement of claim.
    • The plaintiff serves the statement of claim on all defendants and files an affidavit of service with the court.
    • If the defendant does not defend the action, this affidavit of service is necessary for the plaintiff to obtain default judgment.
  • Defending a claim
    • The defendant prepares a statement of defence and serves it on the plaintiff, and files a copy with the court together with proof of service.
    • The defendant may counterclaim against the plaintiff, cross-claim against a co-defendant, or make a third party claim against a non-party.
    • Where a defendant fails to deliver a statement of defence within the prescribed time, the plaintiff may obtain default judgment from the court registrar or a judge, depending on the type of claim.
  • Discovery
    • Parties have an opportunity to obtain evidence required to pursue/defend the claim.
    • In some courts, the parties must agree on a discovery plan if they wish to obtain evidence through the discovery process.
    • The parties must deliver to all other parties an affidavit that lists all relevant documents in the party’s power, possession or control. Copies of the documents must be made available at a party’s request.
    • A party may examine an opposing party, at which time the party must attend to answer questions under oath. The examination is recorded, and where requested, transcribed. Most courts have limits regarding which parties can be examined, how many examinations can take place and, in some cases, there is a maximum time limit.
  • Setting an action down for trial
    • Either party may set the action down for trial by serving and filing the trial record. A trial record includes a copy of all pleadings and orders relating to the trial.
    • The registrar places the action on the trial list, or in some locations, trial dates are fixed by a judge in assignment court.
  • Pre-trial conference
    • In most courts, it is compulsory for parties to a pre-trial conference before a judge or court officer to attempt to settle the case or narrow the issues.
  • Trial
    • The plaintiff and defendant make opening statements. The plaintiff’s witnesses are examined and cross-examined. The defendant’s witnesses are examined and cross-examined. The plaintiff and defendant make closing arguments. In many cases, much of the evidence can be entered from the discovery process rather than through viva voce evidence.
    • A judge may give judgment in court right after both sides have finished presenting their cases. Sometimes, however, the judge may not give the judgment right away but will give the decision later (this is called reserving judgment).

Over the years, courts have enacted rule changes aimed at simplifying civil procedures in order to increase access to justice by reducing complexity as a means to reduce cost and delay. One example is the increased use of summary judgment procedures. Another major step has been to consistently increase the jurisdiction of small claims courts by increasing the monetary value of the claims within their purview. British Columbia has established a Civil Resolution Tribunal, Canada’s first fully online tribunal, which now deals with motor vehicle injury disputes up to $50,000, small claims disputes up to $5,000, strata property (condominium) disputes of any amount, and societies and cooperative associations disputes of any amount (see further section 9 below).

3.2.2. Encouraging Settlement

The vast majority of Canadian civil cases do not proceed to trial. Most courts have taken steps to encourage the early resolution of disputes including:

  • active case management;
  • pre-trial settlement conferences presided over by judges or court officers (such as masters);
  • the BC Civil Resolution Tribunal provides online assistance with negotiation between parties;
  • also in British Columbia, mandatory private mediation that can be triggered by one of the parties delivering a notice of intention to mediate to the other side;
  • in some courts, judicial dispute resolution (JDR) is available at various stages in the civil process;
  • In the province of Québec, pursuant to legislation that came into effect on 1 January 2016, parties to an eventual litigation have the obligation to consider alternative dispute resolution methods before introducing a civil claim; and
  • mediation is mandatory at the pre-trial stage in some Ontario courts.

3.3. Alternative Dispute Resolution

3.3.1. Compulsory and Voluntary ADR

Disputes are resolved by litigation unless the parties mutually agree upon an alternative method to resolve the dispute, which might include mediation, arbitration, or a combination of methods. However, even if a party commences litigation, that party may be required to attempt to resolve the dispute by way of ADR. The use of mediation is particularly widespread in family law matters.

Alternative dispute resolution processes, particularly mediation and arbitration, are widely used in Canada. For the most part, participation in these process is voluntary, often by prior agreement in a contract. Under statutory labour codes, arbitration is compulsory for many matters in the labour context. Most standard form commercial construction contracts include mediation as one of a few prerequisite steps to engaging in binding arbitration. Similarly, many consumer and employment agreements include mandatory arbitration clauses. The enforceability of these types of agreements is in some doubt following several recent court decisions.[7]

3.3.2. ADR Policy Drivers

The use of ADR in Canada is diffuse and diverse. In addition to civil procedure rules and encouragement from courts, codes of professional conduct also typically require that lawyers must consider ADR with their clients.

3.4. Simplification of Law and By-Passing Legal Processes

Proactive legal regimes such as consumer protection measures and regulatory oversight can contribute to access to justice by shifting the burden of enforcing legal rights and responsibilities and ensuring compliance to the regulator, rather than individual legal claims. Canada, however, has witnessed an opposite trend where administrative agencies, such as human rights and employment standards commissions originally intended to protect individuals through systemic enforcement and reliance, now rely almost exclusively on individuals to launch complaints.[8] This move away from state enforcement of standards has led to rising demand for related legal assistance, often undermining the original objective of preventing disputes and improving public protection.[9]

One successful example of by-passing court processes was the move to Workers Compensation schemes. Each province and territory in Canada has its own exclusive Workers’ Compensation Board/Commission, except the Northwest Territories and Nunavut have a combined Workers’ Compensation Board. There is substantial evidence that workers’ compensation systems deliver their benefits more efficiently than the tort system. Administrative costs consume 10% of workers’ compensation premiums in Ontario, compared to close to 50% for the tort system.[10] Workers’ compensation also handles many small claims that would not be brought under a tort system. Delays between injury and compensation are also much shorter under workers’ compensation than under tort law.[11] Canadian Workers’ Compensation Boards have also been proactive in workplace regulation to improve safety. For example, the BC Board (now WorkSafe BC) led the charge to prohibit smoking in the workplace.[12]

Court procedures are also by-passed to some extent through the adoption of no-fault automobile insurance under which policyholders are not only reimbursed by the policyholder’s own insurance company without proof of fault, but also restricted in the right to seek recovery through the civil-justice system for losses caused by other parties. Most provinces in Canada have some form of no-fault accident benefits that are paid to all collision victims. The difference is the degree to which tort (the right to sue) or no-fault (access to accident benefits) is emphasized. For example, Québec has a pure no-fault system that eliminates the right to sue, but provides substantial accident benefits. Ontario has a “hybrid” system, which blends no-fault and tort. Saskatchewan and Manitoba have either pure or hybrid no-fault insurance systems. British Columbia, Alberta and the Atlantic provinces have tort-based systems. In BC, recently introduced rules to simplify auto insurance claims were ruled unconstitutional.[13]

One highly successful example of simplification of law is the development of federal child support guidelines. The Federal guidelines are a set of rules and tables used to determine child support when parents get divorced.[14] They are the law. Their main goals are:

  • to establish a fair standard of support for children so that they continue to benefit from both parents’ incomes after separation or divorce;
  • to reduce conflict and tension between parents by making the calculation of child support more objective;
  • to ensure that parents and children in similar situations are treated the same; and
  • to make the legal process more efficient and encourage settlements by giving courts and parents guidance about child support.[15]

Whereas before support orders were litigated on a case-by-case basis, now, in almost all cases, judges are required to follow the guidelines to determine the amount of child support.[16] Many parents can use the child support guidelines to help them reach an agreement. If parents can agree, they have some flexibility in setting the child support amount, as long as reasonable arrangements have been made taking into account the guideline amount. The guidelines are coupled with family maintenance/support enforcement in each province and territory, which simplify the collection process.

An evaluation concluded: “Five years later, it is clear that the Guidelines are working well. Child support amounts are predictable and consistent, and the vast majority of parents are setting child support amounts without going to court.”[17] The Survey of Child Support Awards database confirms that the vast majority of cases involving child support under the Divorce Act are settled by consent: from 86 percent of all cases in 1997-98 to 88 percent in 1999 and 93 percent in 2000.[18] The Survey of Child Support Awards confirms that the Federal Child Support Guidelines have been used to determine child support orders in the vast majority of divorce cases in the selected courts. In addition, there seems to be little doubt that in the vast majority of cases the child support tables have gone a long way toward ensuring that children receive a fair amount of support and toward reducing conflict and tension between parents about child support. In 94 percent of sole custody cases processed under the Guidelines, the child support amount was greater than or equal to the table amount. The tables have also made the legal processing of cases more efficient and have helped ensure that parents and children in similar circumstances are treated consistently.

A similar approach was taken to the development of Spousal Support Guidelines, although these guidelines are advisory only and are not law. Nevertheless, judges often base their decisions about spousal support on the guidelines.[19] Many family lawyers also use the guidelines when helping clients to make decisions and set up spousal support agreements out of court.[20] Tools have been developed to help professionals use the guidelines.


4.1. Rights to Access to Justice, Equal Access to Court and Fair Trial

Canada has a deep principled commitment to access to the courts and equal access to justice. The right to a fair trial in criminal matters is protected by sections 7-14 of the Canadian Charter and a broader right to a fair hearing and fair criminal trial by ss. 2(e) and (f) under the Canadian Bill of Rights, legislation adopted in 1960, which has quasi-constitutional status. A more general right of access to the superior courts has also been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada in several cases.[1]

Canada is a signatory to all major international conventions including the many provisions concerning access to the courts. These international obligations are not directly enforceable by Canadian courts except to the extent that they have been specifically adopted in domestic legislation. International law does, however, play an important normative and interpretive role within the Canadian justice system.

4.2. Political Commitment to Access to Justice

Canada takes pride in having a strong, independent, and fair court system and effective rule of law. There is a strong political and societal consensus on these principles. At the same time, like in many countries, equal access to justice and the courts is not fully a reality in Canada, particularly with respect to non-criminal matters. Canadian governments, judiciary, law societies, bar associations and legal organizations have developed access to justice initiatives, though much work remains to be done.

Access to justice still is a relatively limited government priority and funding cuts often fall heavily on civil legal aid programs and other access to justice initiatives. This situation is reflected in the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index ranking of Canada, which is high on most indicators except access to civil justice, where Canada fares comparatively poorly relative to other developed countries.[2] Progress is also hindered by a lack of data measuring access to justice and, as a result, it is difficult to effectively evaluate how accessible justice is in Canada.[3]

Barriers to accessing justice are particularly onerous for persons of modest means and members of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in Canada. This situation has been remarked upon by various international treaty bodies for over a decade now. Many of these conclusions are the direct result of cuts to funding to civil legal aid,[4] but others reflect the range of barriers faced by “aboriginal peoples, African Canadians and persons belonging to minority groups”,[5] women with disabilities,[6] and Indigenous women and members of minority groups.[7]

4.3. Canada’s Access to Justice Policy

There is no official national access to justice policy in Canada. Broad directions for reform were developed through a collaborative project involving key national justice organizations initiated, and currently chaired, by the former Chief Justice of Canada, the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin: the National Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters (Action Committee). The Action Committee developed a set of Justice Development Goals published in its 2013 report[8] and, with the assistance of the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice and others, has been reporting on progress toward their achievement.[9] A related companion report prepared by the Canadian Bar Association (CBA), Reaching Equal Justice (discussed further below), focuses to a greater extent on access to legal services as a key component of access to justice. Follow up to this work includes a joint project by the CBA and the Association of Legal Aid Plans proposing national benchmarks for public legal assistance services.[10] The CBA has also developed a series of modules, Legal Health Checks and Preventative Lawyering Toolkit, resources to help lawyers build the legal capabilities of their clients.[11]

Canada’s Justice Development Goals serve as a common framework to coordinate access to justice efforts, share innovations and measure progress. They are based on six guiding principles for change:

  • Put the Public First
  • Collaborate and Coordinate
  • Prevent and Educate
  • Simplify, Make Coherent, Proportional and Sustainable
  • Take Action
  • Focus on Outcomes[12]

The nine Justice Development Goals are:

A. Innovation Goals
1. Refocus the Justice System to Reflect and Address Everyday Legal Problem
2. Make Essential Legal Services Available to Everyone
3. Make Courts and Tribunals Fully Accessible Multi-Service Centres for Public Dispute Resolution
4. Make Coordinated and Appropriate Multidisciplinary Family Services Easily Accessible

B. Institutional and Structural Goals
5. Create Local and National Access to Justice Implementation Mechanisms
6. Promote a Sustainable, Accessible and Integrated Justice Agenda through Legal Education
7. Enhance the Innovation Capacity of the Civil and Family Justice System

C. Research and Funding Goals
8. Support Access to Justice Research to Promote Evidence-Based Policy Making
9. Promote Coherent, Integrated and Sustained Funding Strategies[13]

Further information about policies, practices and initiatives related to the achievement of the Justice Development Goals is available in the Action Committee reports available on the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice website.[14] These reports provide an annual update on access to justice initiatives across Canada, inclusive of a list of published research and evaluation reports. The Action Committee has also established a Metrics Working Group to address the Canada’s deficit in access to justice data.

4.4. Government Responsibility for Access to Justice Policy

In Canada, both the civil and criminal justice systems are fragmented by division of labour between organizations, a fragmentation that is reinforced by fundamental principles of an independent bench and bar. As a result, no one organization is responsible for ensuring access to justice. Some government departments of justice have established an office for this purpose, which is an important step forward, but these offices do not have effective decision-making power over the courts and lawyers. A major culture shift has occurred as a result of the Action Committee’s work: a collaborative group or committee has been established in each province or territory in the country. Each year, the Action Committee meets for its annual Summit bringing together representatives from these provincial/territorial collaborations and representatives of the justice sector institutions to coordinate access to justice efforts. As noted above, the Action Committee has also created vehicles to share access to justice ideas in Canada.


Canada has a widely respected justice system, with well-trained judges, lawyers, paralegals, and tribunal and court staff. However, most legal problems in Canada are resolved outside of the formal justice system. According to recent statistics, less than 7% of Canadians access a court or tribunal to resolve their legal problems, and less than 20% seek advice from legal counsel.[1] Cost is a significant factor in peoples’ decisions about if and how they address their legal issues.[2] Like most countries around the world,[3] Canada has serious access to justice challenges.[4]

Notwithstanding these challenges, the formal legal system – including courts, tribunals, lawyers, paralegals, etc. (as also discussed earlier) – continues to be the primary state-based system available to the public for resolving their legal issues.[5]

6.1. Overview of Judicial Costs and Fees for Litigants

6.1.1. Difference Between “Fees” and “Costs”

A preliminary distinction to be made is the difference between “fees” and “costs”. Fees are generally understood to include the amount of money that clients are charged by their lawyers or paralegals, which include legal fees (e.g. hourly fees, set fees, etc.) and disbursements (charges for photocopies, travel expenses, expert fees, etc.). In sum, fees include the amount of money that clients actually pay to address their legal problems.[6] The amount of fees that lawyers can charge are generally governed by provincial rules of professional conduct and legislation.[7] Hourly rates in Canada vary depending on the level of experience and seniority of a lawyer, the kind of case involved, and the jurisdiction in which the lawyer practices. Although accurate averages are not available, based on a recent survey, hourly rates can range between approximately Cdn $150–$500, with some lawyers – particularly those working in bigger cities working on corporate and commercial related matters – often charging much more.[8] In addition to hourly fees, other forms of fees include sliding scale fees, set fees for service, contingency fees, fees for unbundled services, etc.[9] To the extent that a client qualifies for legal aid, their legal fees may be partially or fully covered.[10]

Costs, on the other hand, are an amount of money deemed by a court or tribunal that a losing party in litigation (typically civil or family) should expect to pay to the winning party for their legal fees. The awarding of costs is typically in the discretion of a court or tribunal.[11] Rules of court typically provide some guidance on how costs should be awarded.[12] Rules of proportionality also are designed to guide the conduct, and fees, of legal matters.[13]

6.1.2. Brief Description of Cost Shifting

The process by which a court or tribunal awards costs to be paid by the losing party to the winning party is often referred to as “cost shifting” (or sometimes “fee shifting”).[14] Costs are typically awarded on a “partial” indemnity basis, which represents part of a party’s actual fees (estimated at approximately 40-75% of a party’s actual fees).[15] Costs can, in less typical circumstances, be awarded on a “substantial” or “full” indemnity basis, representing an increased amount or all of a party’s actual fees. This happens in cases where a court decides that a party’s conduct in the litigation needs to be sanctioned.[16] In some circumstances, no costs are awarded (including, in some cases, in the context of public interest litigation[17]). Cases done on a pro bono basis can involve cost shifting.[18] Further, if a lawyer’s conduct requires sanction, costs can – rarely – be awarded against a lawyer personally.[19]

6.1.3. Process: Fixing v. Taxing Costs

The process of “fixing” costs typically involves a judge, master or other judicial officer deciding (“fixing”) the amount of costs at the conclusion of a trial, motion or other matter (usually based on submissions by the parties). Because this is usually the most efficient way of deciding the issue of costs, it is the approach typically followed in Canada. Alternatively, costs can be “taxed” by way of a master or other judicial officer deciding the issue of costs, after the fact, at a separate proceeding (again based on submissions). Provincial and federal court rules include tariffs (set amounts for specific tasks and matters). Tariffs play a significant role in taxing proceedings; whereas they play a less specific and sometimes more guiding role in the context of fixing costs.

6.1.4. Court Fees

Because justice is administered primarily through the provinces (as mentioned earlier), different fee rules, regulations and practices exist for all provincial courts and tribunals throughout Canada. The same is true for courts and tribunals at the federal level as well. As a general matter, court fees are charged for most first instance and appeal matters.[20] For example, in Ontario, the fee for a superior court statement of claim is listed as Cdn $181, and Cdn $201 for perfecting an appeal.[21] Fees may also be applied for certain hearings.[22] However, where those fees have been found to act as a barrier to access to justice, they have been struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada as unconstitutional.[23]

6.1.5. Method of Calculating Court Fees

Court and tribunal fees vary across the country and are typically set by provincial or federal rules and regulations.[24]

6.2. Exemption from Judicial Fees

As a general matter, exemptions for court fees exist at all levels of courts and tribunals in Canada.[25] Again, as with fees generally, fee exemptions differ from province to province and at the federal level as well.

6.2.1. Source of Exemptions

Exemptions are contemplated by rules, regulations and caselaw.[26]

6.2.2. Criteria and Process for Exemptions

Depending on the jurisdiction and the court or tribunal, exemptions can typically be provided either by court staff or the court.[27] Exemptions are typically provided on grounds of financial need, impecuniosity or other access to justice related circumstances.

6.2.3. Special Fee Exemptions Under Legal Aid

Some provincial regulations contemplate court and tribunal fee waivers for clients who are provided support by legal aid.[28]

6.2.4. Repaying Exempted Judicial Fees

Courts may vary or rescind a court order waiving fees.[29]

6.2.5. Cost Shifting in Legal Aid Cases

Cost-shifting in civil legal aid cases typically proceeds in a similar fashion as in non-legal aid cases. However, the costs in legal aid cases are generally seen as the property of the legal aid provider.[30] As such, the costs paid by a losing party to a winning party (funded by legal aid) are to be paid back to the legal aid provider.[31]

6.2.6. Overall: Do Costs and Fees Promote or Limit Access to Justice?

Costs are seen as an important part of an open court system in which essentially anyone can initiate a claim (with or without merit). In order to cover, at least to some extent, the legal fees of a party that is successful, cost-shifting is seen as an important policy tool. Further, the threat of paying the other side’s costs deters parties from bringing unmeritorious claims.

However, costs also have a potential chilling effect in terms of access to justice, particularly for parties with modest means who might be subject not only to their own lawyer’s fees, but also – through an adverse costs award – to those of his or her opponent. Even with a meritorious claim, the threat of potentially paying the other side’s costs is often too much to risk. For a further discussion about costs, particularly in the context of Charter litigation, see below section 7.

6.3. Mechanisms to Reduce Costs by Variations to Courts and Procedures

6.3.1. Courts of Special Jurisdiction

As discussed in more detail in section 2, above, Canada’s court and tribunal structure is founded on a constitutionally-based division of powers.[32] Superior, inferior and appellate courts are administered in the provinces and territories. Additionally, Canada maintains the Federal Court of Canada and the Supreme Court of Canada. Further, there are provincial and federal tribunals. All of these courts and tribunals, with various first instance, judicial review and appellate roles, are contemplated in provincial and federal legislation.[33]

As also discussed in section 2, above, in addition to these general courts and tribunals, special courts have more recently been created to address the complex needs of a modern, cosmopolitan population. For example, in addition to Canada’s specialized administrative tribunal system (landlord and tenant, human rights, employment standards, labour relations, environmental review, etc.), specialized courts including drug treatment courts, domestic violence courts, youth justice courts, mental health courts, specialized commercial lists, First Nations/Indigenous courts, etc., have been developed, all with specialized jurisdiction and significant expertise.[34] These courts not only seek to improve efficiency through specialization, they also seek to improve the quality of justice for those involved, through their attentiveness to the specific needs and contexts of the issues and litigants involved. Class actions, discussed further below in section 7, are also available in Canada, with an express purpose of improving efficiency, behaviour modification, and access to justice.[35]

6.3.2. Simplified Procedures

A variety of simplified procedures are available in Canadian courts. For claims of a specified amount (e.g. less than Cdn $200,000 or more typically Cdn $100,000), streamlined procedures, with more limited discovery and limited trial days, are available.[36] In addition, there are procedures to resolve matters before a full hearing, including, for example, summary trials and motions for summary judgment, striking pleadings, addressing questions of law, etc.[37]

6.3.3. Small Claims

As discussed earlier in section 2, for claims of smaller amounts, which vary from province to province (up to Cdn $35,000 but typically much lower), small claims courts are also available in Canadian provinces.[38] Depending on the province, different rules as to costs, fees, rules of evidence, availability of counsel, etc., apply. Usually, but not always, counsel can appear on behalf of a party. Rules of evidence are typically slightly more flexible, and costs awards are typically significantly lower.[39]

6.3.4. Liquidated and Unliquidated Claims

Distinctions are sometimes made between liquidated and unliquidated claims. Put very generally, liquidated claims are for amounts that are predetermined, specific, and objectively quantifiable (e.g. a specific and agreed upon contract amount, a receipt, rent for a specified period, etc.). Unliquidated claims, on the other hand, are for non-specific amounts (e.g. damages for a broken arm, etc.). In some circumstances, claims for liquidated damages, particularly in default proceedings, can be signed by a court registrar as opposed to going to a full hearing before a judge,[40] whereas unliquidated damages typically need to be decided through a hearing process. Having said that, in the normal course of cases that do not settle, liquidated and unliquidated damages are typically decided through a hearing process.

6.3.5. Court-Connected ADR

As further discussed in section 3.3 above, the settlement of disputes is actively encouraged by courts, tribunals and regulators in Canada.[41]

6.3.6. Private ADR

As also discussed further in section 3.3 above, in addition to court connected ADR, private ADR is widely available and used in Canada. With less than 7% of legal problems going to courts and tribunals, many different processes and services are accessed by Canadians.[42] Further, other non-court based dispute resolution processes exist in Canada, including processes connected with different Indigenous communities and traditions,[43] as well as dispute resolution processes connected with different religious traditions.[44] For a further discussion of Indigenous laws and traditions, and religious traditions in the context of the Canadian justice system, see section 2.1 above.

6.3.7. Impact of this DR Spectrum on Efficiency, Fairness and Access to Justice

As a general matter, ADR is seen as part of a spectrum of law-related tools and processes designed to improve efficiency and access to justice. By diverting cases out courts and tribunals, and by resolving cases early within the court and tribunal systems, ADR is an important aspect of Canada’s overall justice system. Although generally true, the merits of public justice – including the creation of precedents, fair process for all participants, etc. – need also to be kept in mind when assessing the importance and effectiveness of different justice processes.[45]


Canada’s justice system provides robust protections for diffuse and collective rights. The three main mechanisms for the advancement of these rights are class action litigation, the availability of group action under federal, provincial and territorial human rights codes, and the recognition of collective rights in the Charter and their enforcement through the courts. In addition, numerous community-based legal assistance clinics, discussed further above in section 5, advance the rights of particularly vulnerable and marginalized individuals and groups through a range of law-related strategies. The federal government has also established several programs to fund collective rights litigation by Indigenous peoples, official language minorities and equality-rights seekers.

7.1. Merger of Actions: Class Action Litigation

Class proceedings legislation allow people with a common grievance to sue as a group without having to prove each individual claim. Class actions have been available as a collective recourse to the courts since 1979 in Québec[1] and since the early 1990s in most of the rest of the country. The objectives of these statutes are: judicial economy, access to justice, and behavior modification. Many of the larger class actions are now pursued on a Canada-wide basis through legal teams based in several provinces facilitated by the Ontario Class Proceedings Act, 1992,[2] which provides for national class actions. Pursuant to the provisions of relevant class action statutes, any individual can apply to a court to have a class action certified and to have themselves named as the representative of the class by a court. This is the first major step in a class action proceeding. In deciding whether to certify a claim as a class proceeding, the court will consider whether the representative plaintiff and the proposed class action meet the elements of the prescribed test: whether the claim: (i) discloses a cause of action; (ii) contains an identifiable class; (iii) proposes issues common to the class; (iv) is the preferable procedure for resolving the complaint; and (v) has an appropriate representative plaintiff.[3] Individuals who are members of the class but want to preserve their individual right to sue can opt out of the class during a specific period of time following certification. The merits of the class action are decided in a separate proceeding.

The use of class actions has been aided through contingency-funding which relieves litigants of the burden of paying litigation expenses and legal fees during litigation since payment is contingent on winning outcomes. Where a class action is successful, legal representatives are paid a percentage of the settlement or court award, which must be approved by the court. In most Canadian provinces, class plaintiffs are also protected from adverse cost awards after passing the initial barrier of certification of a class by a court.[4] In additional, class action litigation funds were established in Québec and Ontario to provide financial support to approved class action plaintiffs. In Québec, the fund can reimburse a range of litigation-related expenses including legal fees and disbursements.[5] In Ontario, the fund will pay for approved legal disbursements and also indemnifies plaintiffs for costs that may be awarded against them in funded proceedings.[6]

7.2. Efficacy and Equity of Class Actions and the Benefits Accruing to Litigants

The reach of class action proceedings is hard to overestimate. According to a recent review of class proceedings by the Law Commission of Ontario:

Class action lawsuits can often involve thousands – if not hundreds of thousands – of potential litigants and millions – if not billions – of dollars in compensation. They can have a significant impact on the general public, corporate or government behaviour and reputations, public policy and the justice system. It is fair to describe class actions as one of the most high-profile and far-reaching legal procedures in the Canadian justice system.[7]

On the whole, class actions have been successful in increasing access to justice, notably in major cases involving mass personal injury (e.g. blood, blood products and C. difficile infections), institutional abuse in residential schools and health care facilities, consumer protection (price fixing, pay day loans, criminal interest rates), environmental accidents, labour and employment issues (pensions, gender discrimination, misclassification and unpaid overtime), product liability (including implanted medical devices and food product recalls), securities and privacy breaches (credit cards and data security). Successive Supreme Court of Canada decisions have reaffirmed the important access to justice benefit of class actions.[8] Unsurprising given their scale and complexity, class actions continue to be criticized as time-consuming and expensive and views about their public interest role remain polarized.[9] However, Canadian courts have employed judicial specialization, tailored case management techniques, and unique cross-jurisdictional/multi-court hearings to facilitate efficiency. A recent study and report, both focusing on the experience in Ontario, conclude that class actions have transformed the practice of mass litigation, mostly for the better, but also identify a range of reforms to improve the regime.[10] The CBA developed a national class action database to minimize duplication.[11] BC’s Class Proceedings Act was recently amended to reduce duplication of class actions between provinces and require notification of related cases.[12]

7.3. Collective Action under Human Rights Legislation

In Canada, as well as in several provinces and territories, human rights statutes establish commissions with a proactive duty to promote equality through education, research, consultations, reviews of regulations, rules, orders and so on for compliance with statutory protections, and the issuance of guidelines on the application of the statute. The ability and willingness of human rights commissions to promote substantive equality by systemic means has waxed and waned in different jurisdictions and over time. For example, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has taken this aspect of its enforcement mandate seriously, utilizing its powers to carry out public inquiries into specific human rights issues and also by regularly publishing practical policies and guidelines to provide advice on how to interpret and apply provisions of the Human Rights Code.[13] The OHRC’s policies and guidelines set standards for how individuals, employers, service providers and policy-makers should act to ensure compliance with the Code. The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, which handles complaints of discrimination, may consider these policies in proceedings before it. Very recently, 17 years after dismantling its human rights commission, British Columbia established a fully independent office of human rights commissioner, which has a direct reporting relationship to the provincial legislature.[14]

Human rights legislation across much of Canada also provides for rights infringement claims to be brought by several individuals together, on behalf of a class, or by a third person or organization on behalf of an individual, group, or class.[15]

7.4. Collective Action: Constitutional Litigation

In Canada, constitutional rights litigation is an important avenue for advancing collective rights. Constitutional litigation, including litigation of the rights and freedoms protected by the Charter, proceeds according to general court procedures, civil or criminal, and can also arise in judicial review of decisions of administrative tribunals. Furthermore, administrative tribunals that have jurisdiction to apply the law are considered “courts of competent jurisdiction” and can apply the Charter and provide relief for constitutional infringements.[16] Given the clear power of constitutional review granted to the courts in Canada, there is relatively little debate over the legitimacy of judicial review of laws and government actions. In addition, there is constitutional provision for a government to enact laws “notwithstanding” potential unconstitutionality.[17] Outside of Québec, this provision has rarely been used, which further underscores the prevailing consensus in support of constitutional review.

The very nature of constitutional remedies means that cases brought by an individual can have a broad impact that affects a much larger group of individuals and potentially Canadian society as a whole. Section 52 of the Canadian Constitution provides for constitutional supremacy: “The Constitution of Canada is the supreme law of Canada, and any law that is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution is, to the extent of the inconsistency, of no force or effect.” In the constitutional context “law” has been construed to extend beyond statutes to other government actions. Section 24 of the Charter provides a further important enforcement mechanism:

Anyone whose rights or freedoms, as guaranteed by this Charter, have been infringed or denied may apply to a court of competent jurisdiction to obtain such remedy as the court considers appropriate and just in the circumstances.

The absence of a constitutional code of procedure means that constitutional claims face the same access to justice barriers as other types of civil litigation. Charter claims arise with relative frequency in the criminal context, partially because the onus is not on the claimant to bring the matter to court. Canadian courts, and particularly the Supreme Court of Canada, have developed a jurisprudence that facilitates constitutional litigation in the public interest. Three specific areas can be highlighted: standing, costs, and remedies.

The Canadian civil litigation system is premised on the norm of “private standing” or “standing as of right”. This means that individual litigants will come to court raising grievances personal to them: they are suing on their own behalf. Private standing has traditionally been viewed as the best way to operate our justice system because: it prevents mere “busybodies” from using up scarce judicial resources; it ensures contending points of view are raised by those personally invested in the case; and it preserves the proper role of courts and their relationship to the other branches of government.

Private interest standing is limited, especially in the context of constitutional litigation, where laws and policies can negatively impact a segment of society, not only a sole individual. Furthermore, negative effects often fall the hardest on members of vulnerable and/or marginalized groups in society, who are less likely to have the resources to initiate and carry out a litigation strategy. In those cases, public interest standing can be granted to external interested parties or civil advocacy organizations to litigate in the public interest.

Public interest litigation allows a person or organization to bring a case notwithstanding their lack of direct involvement in the matter, or any infringement of their personal rights. Public interest standing tends to arise when litigants want to challenge government actions with broad social effects, and therefore, is very important in Charter litigation. The Supreme Court of Canada has gradually expanded the basis for granting standing and in its most recent restatement specifically recognized standing as an access to justice issue and reduced the onus on prospective public interest litigants.[18] This jurisprudence constitutes a significant step forward in increasing access to Charter litigation. The Court recognized that public interest litigants are crucial to realizing the Charter’s democratic potential because they can address the systemic impacts of the law on the most vulnerable people in a way that is not possible in individual litigation. The decision paves the way for addressing systemic issues through Charter litigation and it validates the importance of public interest litigation.

Canadian courts have also increased access to justice in public interest constitutional litigation by using their wide discretion over costs to develop creative costs awards.  These include: the award of advance interim costs, where the defendants are ordered to pay the plaintiff’s costs during the litigation regardless of the outcome (in a highly restricted number of cases and with court supervision of the amount to be paid).[19] Other types of cost awards that foster access to justice include: refusing to order costs against a losing Charter litigant, the award of costs at a higher scale to a winning Charter litigant “…as an instrument of policy to encourage access to justice”; and by awarding costs to pro bono counsel. Other funding mechanisms for public interest litigation are discussed in the next two sections. See also the earlier general discussions on costs in section 6 above.

A Canadian court has broad remedial powers under the Constitution to “craft any remedy that it considers just and appropriate under the circumstances,” but in doing so it must remain “…sensitive to its role as judicial arbiter and not fashion remedies which usurp the role of the other branches of governance.”[20] The current remedial consensus in civil constitutional matters is to rely on declarations of invalidity, which provide the government actor the greatest scope to remedy an unconstitutional law, regulation or policy. Often declarations of invalidity are suspended for a specific period of time to allow decision-makers to act. Injunctive relief and the retention of jurisdiction by a court to ensure that unconstitutionality is rectified has been used sparingly by the Courts, but to great effect in specific cases, particularly with respect to enforcing rights of official language minorities.[21] Canadian courts have also relatively recently granted modest damages for constitutional infringements.[22] Stronger remedies are available in the criminal context, including the exclusion of evidence.

7.5. The Systemic Mandates of Community-Based Legal Clinics

Community-based legal clinics, discussed above in section 5, and advocacy groups play an important role in promoting collective rights in Canada. As a general rule, these organizations employ a three-prong strategy of law and regulatory reform and other types of advocacy, education and litigation. Systemic advocacy to reform laws, regulations and institutions is often the only effective way to eliminate recurring problems because they can get at the root causes of repeated and often routine legal issues.

In Ontario, many of these community-based legal clinics are publicly funded as an adjunct to the services provided by Legal Aid Ontario. Legal Aid Ontario also has a test case fund designed to advance an issue that extends beyond the interests of an individual client. Law foundations play a central role in directly funding these organizations in other provinces.

7.6. Federal Funding Programs

The Canadian government and several provinces created litigation funds to support Indigenous groups in litigation designed to protect and promote their collective interests.[23] In Alberta, the current fund is designed to support Indigenous voices in legal actions that affect responsible resource development in Alberta and increased market access.[24]

The Canadian government also funds the Court Challenges Program (the “CCP”), the objectives of which are to provide financial support to Canadians to bring before the courts test cases of national significance that aim to clarify and assert certain constitutional and quasi-constitutional official language rights and human rights. The CCP is administered independently of government, since governmental actors are usually defendants in the test cases. The origins of the program date back to 1978 at which time the CCP funded only cases brought on behalf of official language minorities.  The program was expanded in 1985 when the equality rights provisions of the Charter came into effect. The CCP was eliminated in 1992 and re-established in 1994. From 1994-2006, the CCP funded 575 equality rights cases. The CCP was eliminated again in 2006 and the language rights section was reinstated in 2008 after litigation. In 2018, the CCP was expanded to provide funding for a range of Charter protections in addition to equality rights: freedom of religion, expression, association  and assembly; democratic rights; and the right to life, liberty and security of the person.[25]


9.1. Access to Technology in Canada

Canada had made a long-term commitment to closing the digital divide in Canada, a feat that is not to be underestimated given the geographic challenges of a large, sparsely populated country. At present, 85.7% of people living in Canada have access to broadband internet but this is true for only 40.8% of people living in rural communities.[1] 99.35% of people across Canada have access to mobile LTE but these services are only available on 87.2% of major transportation roads and highways and in 96% of rural communities.[2] Public libraries are an important access point for many individuals who do not have home access to a computer.

9.2. Technology in the Delivery of Non-Legal Public Services

There has been a remarkable increase in the range of government services that are now accessible online (e.g. finding and filling out forms, accessing records, chat services, online payments). Canada has also prioritized digital health and the “Canada Health Infoway”, with the goal that by 2022 every person living in Canada will have electronic access to their health and medical records and for “digitally delivered health services.”[3]

9.3. Technology in the Practice of Law

Technology is used regularly by legal practitioners in both private, public, and not-for-profit settings. Technological innovations are proceeding at a rapid pace and many advances are being made outside of traditional types of legal practice by large legal services providers such as There is a significant range of legal information and advice services available online from legal aid organizations and other not-for profit public legal education providers. Community-based legal clinics and other legal advocacy organizations are using blogs and social media to both engage the pubic and gather information and support. For the most part, legal aid providers communicate electronically with their funders, the legal aid plans. Legal Aid Ontario launched its  online client portal, a key part of its Digital Strategy, and saw 5,000 clients sign up in the first 20 days to receive documents, complete consents and authorize information through a secure, 24/7 online portal.

The CBA Legal Futures Initiative took a close look at how technology is affecting legal practice and is assisting lawyers with some of the challenges (e.g. cyber security, privacy, ethical and professional obligations when using technology to deliver legal services).[4] A professional obligation to be technologically competent is emerging in Canada. The Law Society of Ontario established a Technology Task Force in 2018[5] and the Law Society of BC recently established a Future Task Force mandated in part to deal with these challenges.[6]

9.4. Technological Innovation and Access to Justice

Inclusive technology solutions are integral to three main access to justice strategies: facilitating everyday justice, reinventing the delivery of legal services, and transforming formal justice. At the same time, careful planning is needed to prevent technological innovations from creating or reinforcing existing barriers to equal justice. Reaching Equal Justice highlighted this concern and the imperative of maintaining in person access points for people who require it.[7]

Online platforms are key access points for individuals seeking help with the problems of everyday life. Technology is used to assist in referring people to appropriate services and to identify their eligibility for public services and to assist self-represented people. These platforms are becoming increasingly interactive, providing assistance to individuals to resolve issues and draft agreements. For example, MyLawBC developed and operated by the Legal Services Society provides a range of services to assist people to choose a legal pathway and develop an action plan, including two resolution tools (dialogue and mediation). HiiL was one of the partners in the development of this website. MyLawBC was updated based on online feedback and evaluation. Toll free phone lines continue to play an important role in the provision of legal information and advice, particularly in rural and remote areas.

Technology is also being employed in the ADR context. As noted both above (sections 3.2, 6.3) and below, the BC Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) is Canada’s first online tribunal. The CRT has jurisdiction in the following matters: motor vehicle injury disputes up to $50,000, small claims disputes up to $5,000, strata property (condominium) disputes of any amount, societies and cooperative associations disputes of any amount and shared accommodation and some housing disputes up to $5,000. The website provides a four-step process: (1) legal information provision and tools and assistance in finding and completing the right application form for the given dispute; (2) access to a platform for secure and confidential negotiation through which the parties can try and reach an agreement; (3) if negotiation fails, a manager can provide a neutral evaluation of the dispute to help the parties reach an agreement (agreements can be turned into court enforceable orders); and (4) if an agreement cannot be reached, an independent CRT member will make a decision about the dispute (also enforceable like a court order).

Courts and administrative tribunals are also integrating technology to facilitate access to justice. Progress with electronic court initiatives varies widely across the country. Generally-speaking tribunals have led the way with these innovations but courts are now making some progress (particularly since the Spring 2020 COVID-19 pandemic). Some (of many) recent court innovations include:

  • In BC, the Have a Judge / Need a Judge scheduling tool facilitates access to provincial court judges whose cases had resolved, leaving open time in their schedule. Video-conferencing allows these judges to hear cases in other courthouses, avoiding delays or backlogs.
  • Manitoba courts have expanded the use of technology to make processing traffic tickets and provincial offences more efficient.
  • Newfoundland’s Central Registry of Divorce Proceedings is fully digitized and St. John’s court registries were combined, making it quicker and easier to get information or schedule legal matters.
  • A 20-year contract was signed to digitize and maintain an electronic Land Titles Registry in the Yukon.
  • E-filing is now available in BC’s Court of Appeal.[8]
  • Several provincial courts now publish regular Time to Trial
  • Further, many formal and informal innovations – particularly including technology, courts and tribunals – are emerging in light of the Spring 2020 COVID-19 crisis. As discussed further in section 13 below, among other innovations, these include an increased range of e-filing options and some virtual hearing options (including trials in some circumstances). In addition, provincial governments and law societies have increased the availability of remote commissioning for various documents.[9]

Looking further ahead, the Cyberjustice Laboratory at the Université de Montréal has initiated Autonomy through Cyberjustice Technologies (ACT), the largest international research project that aims to increase access to justice through artificial intelligence.[10] Over the next five years ACT will take an inventory of existing technology and canvass situations where AI is used in the justice system, evaluate its impact through case studies, develop a body of best practices and establish a governance framework to ensure the fair use of artificial intelligence in the justice system.[11]

9.5. Collaboration with Internationally-Focused Organizations

The Legal Services Society of BC worked with the Hague Institute for Innovation of Law (HiiL) on some recent initiatives, including the development of MyLawBC. Other organizations, like the Action Committee and the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice, among others, continue to collaborate with various international organizations, including, among others, Pathfinders, the OECD, etc. (see further section 12 below).


12.1. Global, National and Regional Efforts to Promote Access to Justice

The last several years have seen a significant increase in the international community’s attention to the access to justice crisis, and in turn, to access to justice initiatives.[1]

In Canada, significant efforts have been made over the past number of years to address growing concerns about access to justice.[2] At the national level for example, as discussed further above, the Canadian Bar Association undertook a major access to justice project in 2013.[3] Further, the former Chief Justice of Canada championed the creation of a national, collaborative and coordinated access to justice organization – the Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters – designed to address access to justice challenges and solutions.[4]

It would not be an overstatement to say that all institutional players in Canada’s justice system – courts, tribunals, governments, regulators, bar associations, universities, NGOs, etc. – are all looking at ways to improve access to justice in Canada.

12.2. Collaboration with Other Regional or Global Access to Justice Initiatives

As part of the Action Committee’s efforts,[5] regional access to justice collaborative groups have formed in Canada over the past five years. Those groups – variously made up of judges, lawyers, academics, government representatives, regulators, NGOs, members of the public and others – are designed to energize and coordinate access to justice initiatives that are appropriate for and responsive to local needs and challenges.[6] As discussed further in section 4 above, the Action Committee has developed and promoted a set of “Justice Development Goals”, designed to help catalyze and coordinate regional and local access to justice initiatives and innovations.[7] Many of these efforts are designed, in addition to their local impact, to fit with regional and global access to justice reform efforts, including the United Nations’ SDG 16.[8]

12.3. NGO (and Other) Collaborations on Access to Justice

Various NGO, academic and other non-governmental organizations and initiatives form an important part of the overall Canadian access to justice reform movement.[9]

12.4. National Efforts on SDG 16.3

As mentioned above, many national access to justice initiatives line up with and promote Canada’s efforts behind the United Nations’ SDG 16.3. Additionally, the Federal Government is also committed to improving access to justice by supporting efforts to help promote and achieve the United Nations’ SDG 16.3 (among other SDGs).[10]

Taken together, many individuals and institutions working within the Canadian justice community are making significant contributions to efforts to improve access to justice within Canada, as well as to the international community’s increasing efforts to improve access to justice for the billions of people around the world who do not have adequate access to justice. Good work is happening; although clearly much more needs to be done.


13.1. Access to Justice

As discussed in several sections above (see e.g. sections 4, 6, 9, and 12, among others), access to justice is both a major problem and a major focus of attention in Canada. All justice system players are actively looking for ways to improve access to justice. A number of reports and initiatives have identified many challenges, and Canada is now moving into the next phase of trying to address these challenges, particularly from a user perspective. These current efforts, building on earlier reports and initiatives, have recently been identified as a “2.0” access to justice moment in Canada.[1]

One particularly important national initiative in Canada – perhaps the most unique, and one that has received considerable international attention – is the work of the Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters.[2] Its multi-stakeholder and multidisciplinary approach, its user-focussed outlook, its target-based plan, and its justice development goal reporting provide a very promising strategy, not only for understanding current challenges, but for taking action for meaningful change. The work of the Action Committee has received high level support from all sectors of the justice community.

Overall, the shifts in Canada’s justice sector around access to justice efforts are showing very positive early signs of change.

13.2. Legal Aid

As further developed in section 5 above, Legal aid in Canada has been a relatively stable system over a long period of time. Because financial eligibility guidelines are too low to include all people who cannot afford counsel and coverage is too narrow to include all the problems experienced by the public, many would rightly describe funding for legal aid in Canada as significantly inadequate (and often uneven from province to province). However, in several jurisdictions, the growth of expenditures over the decades (at least until very recently in Ontario) provides some positive evidence of ongoing support by the federal, provincial and territorial governments for legal aid over the long term.

Government taking primary responsibility for funding legal aid has been a long-standing objective of the access to justice movement. Canada is a good example of a country having somewhat achieved that objective. However, the stability of legal aid as a national system and the significant limitations relating to accessibility are major trade-offs inherent in government funding. Governments have shown a relatively long-term commitment to legal aid (subject to comments below), although the commitment may have changed in character from the idealism of decades ago. Legal aid is perceived to be essential for the functioning of the courts as well as a mechanism for providing access to justice. On the other hand, legal aid has not been a policy priority within governments when competing with areas of public policy such as health care or law enforcement. The idealist and enthusiastic support for legal aid that may have existed at the outset has given way to a more bureaucratic expression of inclusion in government budgeting and program management. Funding has typically increased in a slow, steady and modest manner within the normal restraints of government budgeting processes. There have been relatively few instances of dramatic budget cuts or decreases in the history of legal aid in Canada. Having said that, where massive cuts were imposed in British Columbia in the early 2000s, the human costs were dire and long term consequences for individual families and the justice system are yet to be fully addressed. Further, significant cuts occurred in 2019 in Ontario, and the implications are still yet to be fully understood. As such, there are dangers that exist in government funding. As these experiences in  British Columbia and Ontario (among other jurisdictions) demonstrate, there will be occasional cuts and freezes as governments struggle to control budgets during periodic recessions and shifts in political preferences. Given its importance to access to justice, legal aid should never be taken for granted.

Further, it must be recalled that the federal government eliminated funding for civil legal aid in the mid-1990s. Legal aid funding was a very small component of a large federal transfer program, the CAP (discussed further above in section 5), that was eliminated in a government-wide effort to reduce the federal budget deficit. Legal aid itself was not targeted for a funding cut. Rather, it was swept up in a much larger budget reduction initiative in which the government eliminated programs that did not support federal policy issues. The result, however, was a significant reduction of civil legal aid services in many provinces and greater disparity between access to civil legal aid across the country. Second, nowhere in Canada is the right to legal aid guaranteed by statute. This is a potential vulnerability. Finally, as mentioned above, underfunding for legal aid has been a perennial issue. The legal profession, through the Canadian Bar Association and other professional organizations, have long held the view that legal aid in Canada is underfunded.

It is somewhat difficult to generalize since legal aid in Canada is funded directly by 13 separate provincial and territorial governments, each of which makes independent funding decisions based on economic conditions that can vary considerably from one part of the country to another. As well, as mentioned above in section 5, the federal government contributes to provincial and territorial funding for criminal, immigration and refugee legal aid. Overall, the national picture has been one of slow and somewhat steady growth of government funding for legal aid. A longstanding objective of the legal aid movement has been to convince governments to accept responsibility for legal aid funding. This has been the case in Canada and legal aid has been relatively stable. Although unmet need has been a constant, the Canadian situation provides a good example of the benefit of government as the primary source of funding for legal aid.

13.3. COVID-19

As mentioned above (section 9), the COVID-19 pandemic has forced all players in Canada’s justice sector to respond, in real-time, to the challenges created by this global crisis. Given Canada’s division of powers (discussed earlier in section 2), there has been a remarkable amount of cooperation among the various justice system players and levels of government. Changes that once seemed very challenging or out of reach have been made with relative ease and broad-based support. For example, increased e-filings, remote hearings and other initiatives are just a few of the many developments that have occurred over a very short period of time.[3] Limitation and filing deadlines have been altered or suspended during the crisis, and rules around remote commissioning have been altered. Further, some pro bono legal services are now available for front line workers during the pandemic.[4] Law societies,[5] law firms,[6] and other organizations[7] are also looking at innovative ways to understand and respond to the crisis.

Further, legal aid clinics and other organizations are quickly responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, in Ontario, Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO) has produced information about government support programs, making these widely available to the other clinics in Ontario, to civil society organizations, and to the public generally.[8] While generally limiting requests for service to email and phone, legal clinics are monitoring requests to develop a picture of the new needs that are emerging. Using their outreach capacity through community partnerships, some clinics have begun to consult with intermediary groups to learn about the problems facing various groups, thus laying the groundwork for collaborative responses to emerging legal needs and justice problems.

As others have also noticed,[9] we can use the COVID-19 crisis as a catalyst for meaningful innovation and change for improved access to justice. According to Trevor Farrow, “there are going to be numbers of sectors of society, including universities, including law firms and including courthouses that are going to learn significant lessons from responses to this pandemic.”[10]

There is significant domestic and international attention on the supply-side of this issue: the many new initiatives that are being provided by various sectors of the justice system in response to the COVID-19 crisis. What is slightly less well understood, but perhaps even more important, is the demand-side of the issue: how are legal problems changing in light of COVID-19 and what do people need? For example, we know that unemployment numbers are way up, there are early indicators that domestic violence is increasing (given physical isolation), and there are serious concerns being raised that people – particularly vulnerable populations and those without easy access to technology – are not able to access legal services. All of this needs to be further explored in order to better understand changing needs and to better develop and match services to those needs. In short, there has never been a more pressing need for evidence-based policy making and reform.

The good news is that people are alive to the issue and innovations are being explored. What remains to be seen is how far this innovation trend will go, and how lasting the changes will be. All current signs indicate that most members of the Canadian justice system are excited about the current initiatives. In terms of their durability, the current Chief Justice of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice recently stated that, with respect to recent changes around e-hearings and e-filings, “…we cannot go back.”[11] As others have stated, “it can’t be business as usual”.[12] Time will tell on all of these considerations.

13.4. Overall

It has been over 20 years since the Canadian Bar Association published its Systems of Civil Justice Task Force report; and it has been a little less than 10 years since the Canadian Bar Association published its Reaching Equal Justice report and the Action Committee published its Roadmap for Change report (all discussed in various sections above). Although much more is needed, there is also a growing body of research in Canada on various aspects of access to justice (as also discussed in various sections above). Canada has significant knowledge and experience – not just about access to justice problems but also about potential access to justice solutions – that now form part of a growing body of international access to justice research and literature.

However, notwithstanding all of these recent efforts and initiatives, forthcoming research[13] and recent international reports[14] confirm that there is still a significant gap between current justice needs and affordable justice solutions. Collaborative initiatives like this Global Access to Justice Project will help to bridge this access to justice gap.


[1] The authors are grateful for research assistance from Stacey Weltman (JD), Osgoode Hall Law School.

[2] Data Source: IMF World Economic Outlook, April 2019.

[3] UNDP, Human Development Indices and Indicators, 2018 Statistical Update, Table 4, at 34.

[4] Statistics Canada, “Dimensions of Poverty Hub” (24 February 2020), online: Government of Canada, Statistics Canada <>.

[5] Department of Justice Canada, Electronic Communications, “Indigenous Justice Program” (16 December 2019), online: Government of Canada, Department of Justice Canada, Electronic Communications <>.

[6] Canada, Constitution Acts, 1867-1982, available online: Government of Canada <>.

[7] Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Part 1 of the Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c 11.

[8] “Faith-based (religious) family arbitration”, online: Faith-based (religious) family arbitration – Ministry of the Attorney General


[9] Department of Justice, “The judicial structure” (16 October 2017), online: About Canada’s System of Justice <>.

[10] Ibid.

[11] For more information, see e.g. Provincial Court of British Columbia, “Specialized Courts”, online: <>.

[12] There are two law societies in the province of Québec: the Barreau de Québec, which regulates lawyers, and the Chambre de notaires du Québec, which regulates notaries.

[13] For more information, and as further discussed below in section 8, see “National Mobility Agreement”, online: FLSC <>.

[14] See e.g. “Alternative Business Structures”, online: Law Society of Ontario <>; Michael Lucas, Alternative Business Structures in the Legal Profession: Preliminary Discussion and Recommendation (2011).

[15] Federation of Law Societies of Canada, Statistics 2017, online: FLSC <>.

[16] See further the discussion below in Section 6, Costs and Fees.

[17] See for example the Law Society of BC’s work on “Unbundling Legal Services”, online: LSBC <>.

[18] Canadian Bar Association Access to Justice Committee, Reaching Equal Justice: An Invitation to Envision and Act (Ottawa: Canadian Bar Association, 2013) [Reaching Equal Justice] at 103-106.

[19] For more information about the scope of practice of licensed paralegals in Ontario, code of conduct and other details, see online: LSO <>.

[20] For details about the scope of practice of paralegals in BC, see online: LSBC <>.

[21] See further discussion below in Section 6, Costs and Fees; and Section 10, Unmet Legal Needs.

[22] Ken Chasse, “Law Society Accountability for the Access to Justice Problem” (2018), online: SSRN <>.

[23] See further discussion below in Section 6, Costs and Fees.

[24] Jamie Baxter and Albert Yoon, “No Lawyer for a Hundred Miles?: Mapping the New Geography of Access of Justice in Canada” (2014) 52:1 Osgoode Hall L J, online: Osgoode Hall Law School Digital Commons <>.

[25] “Rural Education and Access to Lawyers Initiative”, online: LSBC <>.

[26] Department of Justice, “The judicial structure” (16 October 2017), online: About Canada’s System of Justice <>.

[27] “Supernumerary and Retired Judges” (25 August 2018), online: The Canadian Superior Courts Judges Association (CSCJA) <>.

[28] Government of Canada, Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs, Number of Federally Appointed Judges as of January 7, 2020, online: Government of Canada <>.

[29] Please note that 3 new judicial positions were added to the Federal Court due to the passing of recent legislation.

[30]  Andrew Griffith, “Diversity among federal and provincial judges” (5 May 2016), online: Policy Options <>.

[31] For more information, see online: <>.

[32] “‘State of continual crisis’: Alberta Crown prosecutors overworked, understaffed”, CBC News (12 December 2019), online: CBC <>.

[33] Provincial Court of British Columbia, “Criminal Case Flowchart”, online: <>.

[34] Michael Jackson, “Locking Up Natives in Canada” (1989) 23:2 UBC L Rev 215, online: UBC <>.

[35] UN Human Rights Committee (HRC), Concluding observations on the sixth periodic report of Canada, 13 August 2015, CCPR/C/CAN/CO/6, at para 18, online: <>.

[36] Ibid.

[37] R. v. Jordan, [2016] 1 SCR 631.

[38] Department of Justice Canada, “Legislation marks the next step in transforming the criminal justice system” (21 June 2019), online: Canadaca <>.

[39] See for example, Heller v. Uber Technologies Inc., 2019 ONCA 1.

[40] See Reaching Equal Justice (Ottawa: Canadian Bar Association, 2013).

[41] Ibid.

[42] P.C. Weiler, “Protecting the Worker From Disability” (1983).

[43] Peter Leveque, “Exploring the Domain of Accident Law: Taking the Facts Seriously by Don Dewees, David Duff & Michael Trebilcock” (1997) 35:4 Alberta L Rev 1129.

[44] Kim Lunman, “B.C. cabinet rejects smoking ban” The Globe and Mail (30 August 2001). The Board had adopted regulations banning smoking in the workplace in 1997.

[45] Crowder v. British Columbia (Attorney General), (2019) BCSC 1824.

[46] Federal Child Support Guidelines, SOR/97-175, online: Government of Canada <>.

[47] Government of Canada, Department of Justice, Children Come First: A Report to Parliament Reviewing the Provisions and Operation of the Federal Child Support Guidelines – Volume 1, online: Government of Canada <>.

[48] Ibid.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Government of Canada, Department of Justice, Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines, online: Government of Canada <>.

[52] Ibid.

[53] See e.g. Trial Lawyer’s Association of BC and Canadian Bar Association (BC) v. British Columbia (Attorney General), 2014 SCC 59.

[54] World Justice Project, Rule of Law Index 2019, at 56, online: <>. See the World Justice Project website for the most up-to-date data.

[55] See Reaching Equal Justice (Ottawa: Canadian Bar Association, 2013) at 34, 144-145. For some important recent research initiatives, see e.g. the work of the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice, online: CFCJ <>.

[56] For an overview see: Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, “The Right to Legal Aid: Submission to BC Legal Aid Services Review” (22 November 2018), online: <>.

[57] UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: Concluding Observations, Canada (25 May 2007), CERD/C/CAN/CO/18, at para 26, online: <>.

[58] UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CPRD), Concluding observations on initial report of Canada, UN Doc. CRPD/C/CAN/CO/1 (8 May 2017) at paras. 15, 33(b), online: <>.

[59] Human Rights Council (HRC), Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, UN Doc. A/HRC/39/11 (11 July 2018) at paras. 142.106, 142.107, 142.112, 142.190, 142.239, online: <>; HRC, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, UN Doc. A/HRC/24/11 (28 June 2013) at paras 128.54, 128.998, 128.102, online: <>.

[60] Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, Access to Civil & Family Justice: A Roadmap for Change (Ottawa: Action Committee, 2013) [Roadmap for Change], online: CFCJ <>.

[61] See updates on the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice website, online: <>.

[62] Melina Buckley, “A National Framework for Meeting Legal Needs: Proposed National Benchmarks for Public Legal Assistance Services”, online: <>.

[63] See online: CBA <>.

[64] See Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, Access to Civil & Family Justice: A Roadmap for Change (Ottawa: Action Committee, 2013).

[65] Ibid.

[66] See supra. See also Justice Development Goals, online: <>. See further Trevor C.W. Farrow and Lesley A. Jacobs, eds, The Justice Crisis: The Cost and Value of Accessing Law (Vancouver: UBC Press, forthcoming 2020).

[67] Some of the information contained in this section is also discussed elsewhere.

[68] See New Brunswick (Minister of Health and Community Services) v. G., [1999] 3 S.C.R 46.

[69] Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, Access to Civil & Family Justice: A Roadmap for Change (Ottawa: Action Committee, 2013) at 2.

[70] See e.g. Melina Buckley, “A National Framework for Meeting Legal Needs: Proposed National Benchmarks for Public Legal Assistance Services”, online: <>., vernment of Canada, Department of Justice oking in the workplace in 1997.ations Courts in collaboration with ic period of time

[71] Ibid.

[72] Young Offenders Act, RSC 1985, c. Y; Youth Criminal Justice Act, SC 2002, c. 1.

[73] R. v. Gladue, [1999] 1 SCR 688.

[74] The practice could traditionally have claimed to be client-centered, in the sense of the zealous defense or representation of the legal interests of the client. A person-centered service is quite different, dealing with interconnected legal and non-legal needs of the whole person with the hope of achieving more effective and durable resolutions for individuals and strengthening the communities in which they live in order to develop more effective partnerships to deal with the everyday problems form which legal problems emerge.

[75] Legal Services Society: Public Opinion Poll, 2018, Vancouver, Sentis Research, online: <>.

[76] Legal Aid in Canada; Resource and Caseload Statistics, Statistics Canada (various years) and Legal Aid in Canada, 2016–2017 (Ottawa, Department of Justice, 2018).

[77] For recent legislative transformations to the legal aid regime in Ontario, see Bill 161, “An Act to enact the Legal Aid Services Act, 2019 and to make various amendments to other Acts dealing with the courts and other justice matters”, 1st Sess., 42nd Leg., 2019 (Ontario).

[78] See section 6, below, for a further discussion of legal fees.

[79] See Legal Aid in Canada 2016-2017, Research and Statistics Division and Legal Aid Directorate, Department of Justice, Ottawa (2018).

[80] See Rowbotham (1998), 63 CR 3rd 13 (Ont CA) at para. 156.

[81] Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Legal Aid in Canada: Resource and Caseload Statistics 2011/21, Cat. No. 85F0015X Annual, Statistics Canada, Ottawa, 2013; CANSIM, Table 258-0009, Legal Aid Applications-Total by Status of Application and Type of Matter-files, 2014 and CANSIM Table 258-0011, Approved Legal Aid Applications by Staff and Private Lawyers by Type of Matter-files, 2014; Legal Aid in Canada 2016-2017, Research and Statistics Division and Legal Aid Directorate, Department of Justice, Ottawa (2018).

[82] See New Brunswick (Minister of Health and Community Services) vs G, [1999] 3 S.C.R 46.

[83] Legal Aid in Canada 2016-2017, Research and Statistics Division and Legal Aid Directorate, Department of Justice, Ottawa (2018) at Table 6, p. 9.

[84] Ibid. at Table 15, p.19.

[85] Legal Aid in Canada: Resource and Caseload Statistics, Statistics Canada, Cat. NO. 85F0015 (various years); Legal Aid in Canada 2016-17, Research and Statistics Division and Legal Aid Directorate, Department of Justice Canada (2018).

[86] Trevor C.W. Farrow et al., “Everyday Legal Problems and the Cost of Justice in Canada: Overview Report” (Toronto: Canadian Forum on Civil Justice, 2016) at 9; Ab Currie, “Nudging the Paradigm Shift, Everyday Legal Problems in Canada” (Toronto: Canadian Forum on Civil Justice, 2016).

[87] Trevor C.W. Farrow et al., “Everyday Legal Problems and the Cost of Justice in Canada: Overview Report” (Toronto: Canadian Forum on Civil Justice, 2016) at 3-7.

[88] Task Force on Justice, Justice for All – The report of the Task Force on Justice: conference version (New York: Center on International Cooperation, 2019) at 12.

[89] See e.g. Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, Access to Civil & Family Justice: A Roadmap for Change (Ottawa: Action Committee, 2013) at 1; Canadian Bar Association, Reaching Equal Justice (Ottawa: Canadian Bar Association 2013) at Part 1; Lisa Moore and Trevor C.W. Farrow, Investing in Justice: A Literature Review in Support of the Case for Improved Access (Toronto: Canadian Forum on Civil Justice, 2019) at 2. See further Trevor C.W. Farrow and Lesley A. Jacobs, eds, The Justice Crisis: The Cost and Value of Accessing Law (Vancouver: UBC Press, forthcoming 2020).

[90] See brief overview of Canada’s justice system above in sections 1-3. See also: Department of Justice Canada, Canada’s System of Justice (Ottawa: Government of Canada, 2015), online: Government of Canada <>.

[91] For a summary of different kinds of expenses, see: Trevor C.W. Farrow et al., “Everyday Legal Problems and the Cost of Justice in Canada: Overview Report” (Toronto: Canadian Forum on Civil Justice, 2016) at 14-15.

[92] See e.g. Law Society of Ontario, Rules of Professional Conduct, r. 3.6; Ontario’s Solicitors Act, RSO 1990, C. s.15.

[93] Marg Bruineman, “The right price: Canadian Lawyer 2018 Legal Fees Survey” (April 2018) [“Canadian Lawyer 2018 Legal Fees Survey”], online: <>.

[94] For a general summary, see e.g. Janet Walker et al., eds., The Civil Litigation Process: Cases and Materials, 8th ed. (Toronto: Emond, 2016) at c. 2.II [Civil Litigation Process]; “Canadian Lawyer 2018 Legal Fees Survey”, supra; Noel Semple, “The Cost of Seeking Civil Justice in Canada” (2015) 93 Can Bar Rev 639.

[95] For a background discussion on legal aid, see section 5 above. Government of Canada, Department of Justice Canada, “Legal Aid Program” (6 September 2019), online: <>.

[96] See e.g. Ontario’s Courts of Justice Act, RSO 1990, c. C.43, s. 131.

[97] See e.g. Ontario’s Rules of Civil Procedure, RRO 1990, Reg 194, as amended, r. 57.

[98] Ibid. at r. 1.04 (1.1); Trevor C.W. Farrow, “Proportionality: A cultural revolution” (2012) 1 J Civ Lit & Pract 151.

[99] Walker et al., eds., Civil Litigation Process, supra, at 91.

[100] Ibid. at 104.

[101] Ibid. at 105.

[102] Shaun Fluker, “The Public Interest Exception to the Normal Costs Rule in Litigation” (2016) ABLawg, online: <>.

[103] Walker et al., eds., Civil Litigation Process, supra, at 105.

[104] Ibid.

[105] See e.g. Superior Court of Justice and Court of Appeal – Fees, O. Reg. 293/92, amended to O Reg 10/05, s. 1.

[106] Ibid.

[107] See e.g. British Columbia Supreme Court Civil Rules, as amended, BC Reg 115/2019, Appendix C.

[108] Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia v. British Columbia (Attorney General), [2014] 3 SCR 31.

[109] See e.g. Superior Court of Justice and Court of Appeal – Fees, O. Reg. 293/92, amended to O. Reg. 10/05, at s. 1; British Columbia Supreme Court Civil Rules, BC Reg 168/2009 at Appendix C; Federal Court Rules, SOR/98-106, Tariff A. For tribunals, see e.g. Tribunals Ontario (Environmental and Land Division), Fee Chart, online: Government of Ontario <>.

[110] See e.g. Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, “Having your court fees waived” (last modified 8 May 2019), online: Government of Ontario <>.

[111] See e.g. British Columbia Supreme Court Civil Rules, BC Reg 168/2009

  1. 20-5; Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia v. British Columbia (Attorney General), [2014] 3 SCR 31.

[112] See e.g. Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, “Having your court fees waived” (last modified 8 May 2019), online: Government of Ontario <>.

[113] Ibid.

[114] See e.g. British Columbia Supreme Court Civil Rules, BC Reg 168/2009, Appendix C at r. 20-5(4).

[115] See e.g. Legal Aid Ontario, Tariff and Billing handbook (update July 2015) at c. 6.2.

[116] Ibid.

[117] See e.g. Department of Justice, “The judicial structure” (modified 16 October 2017), online: Government of Canada <>.

[118] See e.g. Ontario Courts of Justice Act, RSO 1990, c. C.43. at pts. I-II; Federal Courts Act, RSC 1985, c. F-7.; Supreme Court Act, RSC, 1985, c. S-26.

[119] See e.g. Provincial Court of British Columbia, “Specialized Courts”, online: <>; Alberta Mental Health Court, online: Alberta Courts <>; The Courts of Nova Scotia, “Youth Justice Court”, online: <>; Ontario Superior Court of Justice, “Commercial List”, online: Ontario Courts <>.

[120] See e.g. Ontario Class Proceedings Act, 1992, SO 1992, c. 6.

[121] See e.g. Ontario Rules of Civil Procedure, RRO 1990, c. C.43. at r. 76.

[122] Ibid at rr. 20-22; Alberta Rules of Court, AR 124/2010, as amended, pt. 7.

[123] See e.g. Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, “Small Claims Court”, online: <>.

[124] Ibid.

[125] See e.g. Ontario Rules of Civil Procedure, RRO 1990, c. C.43 at r. 19.04(1)(a).

[126] See e.g. Trevor C.W. Farrow, Civil Justice, Privatization, and Democracy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014), cc. 3-4.; Department of Justice, “Dispute Resolution Reference Guide” (19 January 2015), online: Government of Canada <>. For various court-based references, see e.g. Alberta Rules of Court, Alta Reg 390/1968 at pt. 4; Québec Code of Civil Procedure, C-25.01, r. 1; Ontario Rules of Civil Procedure, RRO 1990, c. C.43 at rr. 24.1, 50, 77. See further British Columbia Civil Resolution Tribunal, online: <>; Ontario Condominium Authority Tribunal, online: <>.

[127] See variously Trevor C.W. Farrow et al., “Everyday Legal Problems and the Cost of Justice in Canada: Overview Report” (Toronto: Canadian Forum on Civil Justice, 2016) at 9; Trevor C.W. Farrow, Civil Justice, Privatization, and Democracy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014); Ontario Arbitration Act, 1991, SO 1991, c. 17; Québec Code of Civil Procedure, CQLR c C-25.01 at r. 1; Ontario Statutory Powers and Procedure Act, RSO 1990, c. S.22, ss. 4.8-4.9.

[128] See e.g. Val Napoleon and Hadley Friedland, “Indigenous Legal Traditions: Roots to Renaissance” (2013) Ontario Law Foundation 1; Nisha Sikka, George Wong and Catherine Bell, “Indigenous Centered Conflict Resolution Processes in Canada”, online: Centre of Excellence for Matrimonial Real Property <>; Rebecca Ratcliffe and Catherine Bell, “Western ADR Processes and Indigenous Dispute Resolution”, online: Centre of Excellence for Matrimonial Real Property <>; Hadley Friedland, Jessica Asch and Val Napoleon, “A Toolkit for On-Reserve Matrimonial Real Property Dispute Resolution”, online: Centre of Excellence for Matrimonial Real Property <>; Aaron Mills, “The Lifeworlds of Law: On Revitalizing Indigenous Legal Orders Today” (2016) 61:4 McGill LJ 847; Rupert Ross, “Exploring Criminal Justice and the Aboriginal Healing Paradigm” (Discussion Paper) (LSUC, Third Colloquium on the Legal Profession, 2004) online: LSO <>. See also Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Honouring the Truth, Reconciling the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2015).

[129] See e.g. Ismaili Conciliation and Arbitration Board, “Dispute Resolution Services”, online: <>; Trevor C.W. Farrow, “Re-Framing the Sharia Arbitration Debate” (2006) 15:2 Constitutional Forum 79; Marian Boyd, Dispute Resolution in Family Law: Protecting Choice, Promoting Inclusion (Toronto: Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, 2004).

[130] See Trevor C.W. Farrow, Civil Justice, Privatization, and Democracy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014).

[131] Act respecting the Fonds d’aide aux actions collectives, CQLR c F-

[132] Class Proceedings Act, 1992, SO 1992, c. 6.

[133] See for example, British Columbia, Class Proceedings Act, RSBC 1996, C 50, s. 4.

[134] See e.g. ibid. at s. 37.

[135] See Fonds d’aide aux actions collectives, online: Government of Québec <>.

[136] In 1992, an amendment to the Law Society Act established the Class Proceedings Fund and the Class Proceedings Committee. See Law Foundation of Ontario, Class Proceedings Fund, online: LFO <>.

[137] Law Commission of Ontario, Class Actions: Objectives, Experience, and Reforms, Final Report (Toronto: Law Commission of Ontario, July 2019) [Class Actions] at 2.

[138] See for example, Pro-Sys Consultants Ltd. v. Microsoft Corporation, 2013 SCC 57.

[139] Law Commission of Ontario, Class Actions, supra, at 1.

[140] Ibid. See recommendations compiled in Appendix A, at 95-100.

[141] Canadian Bar Association, Class Action Database, online: <>.

[142] British Columbia, Class Proceedings Act, supra, at s. 4.1 (“Orders in multi-jurisdictional certification”).

[143] See for example, Ontario Human Rights Commission, “Policy on ableism and discrimination based on disability” (June, 2017), online: OHRC <>.

[144] British Columbia, Office of the Human Rights Commissioner, online: <>.

[145] British Columbia, Human Rights Code, RSBC 1996, c. 210, ss. 21(1) and (4).

[146] R. v. Conway, 2010 SCC 22.

[147] Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Part 1 of the Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c 11 at s 33.

[148] Canada (Attorney General) v. Downtown Eastside Sex Workers United Against Violence Society, 2012 SCC 45.

[149] British Columbia (Minister of Forests) v. Okanagan Indian Band, 2003 SCC 71; R. v. Caron, 2011 SCC 5.

[150] Doucet-Boudreau v. Nova Scotia (Minister of Education), 2003 SCC 62.

[151] Ibid.

[152] Ward v. City of Vancouver, 2010 SCC 27.

[153] The Federal program was discontinued in 2012.

[154] Government of Alberta, Litigation Fund, online: <>.

[155] For details about the Court Challenges Program, see Court Challenges Program, online: CCP <>.

[156] For a further discussion of the legal profession in Canada, see section 2.3 above.

[157] See e.g. Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society, online: <>; Barreau du Québec, online: <>; Law Society of the Northwest Territories, online: <>.

[158] See e.g. Ontario Law Society Act, R.S.O. 1990 c. L.8.

[159] Ibid.

[160] For more information on the FLSC and its policies, see: <>.

[161] See e.g. LSO, Rules of Professional Conduct, online LSO: <>.

[162] See FLSC, Model Code of Professional Conduct, online: FLSC <>.

[163] See FLSC, “National Requirement” (1 January 2018), online: FLSC <>.

[164] See David Tanovich, “Learning to Act Like a Lawyer: A Model Code of Professional Responsibility for Law Students” (2009) 27 Windsor YB Access Just 75.

[165] See e.g. York University, Code of Student Rights & Responsibilities, online: York University <>.

[166] See FLSC, “Canadian Law School Programs”, online: FLSC <>.

[167] See e.g. LSO, “Becoming Licensed”, online: LSO <>; Canada Centre for Professional Legal Education, online: CPLED <>.

[168] See e.g. LSO, “Becoming Licensed”, ibid.

[169] See e.g. LSO, “Law Practice Program”, online: <>.

[170] See FLSC, “About the NCA”, online: <>.

[171] See e.g. LSO, “Continuing Professional Development Requirement”, online: LSO <>.

[172] See e.g. Canadian Bar Association, “Pro Bono Resources in Canada”, online: CBA <>.

[173] See e.g. Law Society of British Columbia, online: <>.

[174] Government of Canada, Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, “Broadbandfund – Closing the digital divide in Canada”, online: Government of Canada <>.

[175] Ibid.

[176] Canada Health Infoway, online: <>.

[177] Canadian Bar Association, Futures: Transforming the delivery of legal services in Canada (Ottawa: CBA, 2014).

[178] Law Society of Ontario, “Technology Task Force” (2020), online: LSO <>.

[179] The Law Society of British Columbia, “Futures Task Force Consultation”, online: LSBC <>.

[180] Ibid. at 81-83.

[181] Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, Tracking Action on Canada’s Justice Development Goals – A2J Progress in 2017, online: <>.

[182] See e.g. Law Society of Ontario, “LSO: COVID-19 Response”, online: LSO <>; Ontario Superior Court of Justice, “Notice to the Profession, the Public and Media Regarding Civil and Family Proceedings” (15 March 2020), online: <>.

[183] For more information on the project, see: <>.

[184] For an interview with the Professor Karim Benyekhlef, Director of the Cyberjustice Laboratory and Professor Amy Salyzyn, a lead researcher for ACT, see: <>.

[185] Ab Currie, The Nature and Extent of Unmet Need for Criminal Legal Aid in Canada (2004) 11:3 International J Legal Prof 191.

[186] Ab Currie, A National Survey of the Civil Justice Problems of Low and Moderate Income Canadians: Incidence and Patterns, (2006) 13:3 International J Legal Prof 217, presents the results of a 2004 Canadian survey of legal problems; Ab Currie, “The Legal Problems of Everyday Life”, in Rebecca L. Sandefur, ed., Access to Justice (Sociology of Crime, Law and Deviance, vol. 12) (United Kingdom, Emerald Group, 2009) 1, presents the results of a 2006 Canadian survey of legal problems; and Ab Currie, Lives of Trouble: Criminal Offending and the Problems of Everyday Life, paper presented at the International Legal Aid Group Conference (Wellington New Zealand, 2009), presents the results of the 2008 Canadian legal problems survey; Trevor CW Farrow, Ab Currie, Nicole Aylwin, Les Jacobs, David Northrup and Lisa Moore, Everyday Legal Problems and the Cost of Justice in Canada (Toronto, Canadian Forum on Civil Justice, 2016) presents results from the 2014 survey.

[187] The table is reproduced from Ab Currie, Nudging the Paradigm Shift: Everyday Legal Problems in Canada (Toronto, Canadian Forum on Civil Justice, 2014).

[188] Consumer, Debt, Employment, Discrimination, Family, Wills and Powers of Attorney, Medical Care, Housing, Personal Injury, Police Action, Disability, Threat of Legal Action, Social Assistance, and Immigration.

[189] Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, Access to Civil and Family Justice: A Roadmap for Change (Ottawa, Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, 2013).

[190] Ibid. at 2. See further Trevor C.W. Farrow and Lesley A. Jacobs, eds, The Justice Crisis: The Cost and Value of Accessing Law (Vancouver: UBC Press, forthcoming 2020).

[191] These data are available on-line from Statistics Canada, CANSIM tables 258-0007.

[192] Ibid., CANSIM Table 258-0007.

[193] Julie Macfarlane, Identifying and Meeting the Needs of Self-Representing Litigants, The National Self-Representing Litigants Project (2013).

[194] Ab Currie, Extending the Reach of Legal Aid: Report on the Pilot Phase of the Legal Health Check-Up Project (Toronto: Canadian Forum on Civil Justice, 2014); Ab Currie, Engaging the Power of Community to Expand Legal Services for Low-Income Ontarians (Toronto: Canadian Forum on Civil Justice, 2015).

[195] Ab Currie, Legal Secondary Consultation: How Legal Aid Can Support Communities and Expand Access to Justice (Toronto: Canadian Forum on Civil Justice, 2018).

[196] Ab Currie, Someone Out There Helping: The WellCoMs Mobile Van Project (Toronto: Canadian Forum on Civil Justice, forthcoming 2020).

[197] Hamilton Outreach Project: Meeting People Where They’re At (Hamilton: Ontario: Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, 2019).

[198] Lisa Turik, Justice and Health Partnership Project: Interim Report (Belleville: Ontario, Community Advocacy and Legal Centre, 2016).

[199] MyLawBC: Find Solutions to your legal problems, online: <>.

[200] Lois Gander, “The Radical Promise of Public Legal Education in Canada” (Edmonton, University of Alberta 1999); Lois Gander, “The Changing Face of Public Legal Education in Canada”, News and Views on Civil Justice Reform, Issue 6 (Edmonton, Canadian Forum on Civil Justice, 2003).

[201] Access to Justice Reports on Public Legal Information and Education (1989) (Ottawa, Department of Justice).

[202] Karen Cohl, Julie Lassonde, Julie Mathews, Carol Lee Smith, and George Thomson, “Trusted Help: The role of community workers as trusted intermediaries”, pts 1-2 (Toronto: Law Foundation of Ontario, 2018).

[203] For a discussion of that boundary, see Trevor CW Farrow et al., Addressing the Needs of Self-Represented Litigants in the Canadian Justice System (Toronto & Edmonton: Association of Canadian Court Administrators, 2012), online: CFCJ <>.

[204] Ab Currie, “The Legal Problems of Everyday Life”, in Rebecca L. Sandefur, ed., Access to Justice (Sociology of Crime, Law and Deviance, vol. 12) (United Kingdom, Emerald Group, 2009) 1.

[205] Julie Mathews and David Wiseman, “Pushing the Boundaries of Legal Information: What do clients really need?” (Toronto, CLEO Connect, 2019).

[206] See Canadian Bar Association, “Legal Aid Delivery Models in Canada: A Discussion Paper” (Ottawa, Canadian Bar Association, 1987); Melina Buckley, The Legal Aid Crisis: A Time for Action (Ottawa, Canadian Bar Association, 2000); Melina Buckley, Moving Forward on Legal Aid: Research on Needs and Innovative Approaches (Ottawa, Canadian Bar Association, 2010).

[207] Alison Brewin and Kasari Govender, Rights-Based Legal Aid: Rebuilding B.C.’s Broken System (Vancouver, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 2010).

[208] Ab Currie, Someone Out There Helping: Final Report of the WellCoMs Mobile Van Project (Toronto, Canadian Forum on Civil Justice, 2019).

[209] Legal Aid in Canada: Resource and Caseload Statistics Ottawa, 2013-14 (Ottawa, Statistics Canada, 2014-15).

[210] Trevor C. W. Farrow, “What Is Access to Justice?” (2014) 51:3 Osgoode Hall LJ 957, online: Osgoode Digital Commons <>.

[211] See e.g. United Nations, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Goal 16, online: UN <>; Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, “Access to Justice”, online: OECD <>; Pathfinders, Task Force on Justice, online: <>.

[212] For a further discussion on access to justice in Canada, see Section 4, Access to Justice, Equal Access to Court and Fair Trial.

[213] See Canadian Bar Association, Reaching Equal Justice (Ottawa: Canadian Bar Association 2013); Canadian Bar Association, Futures: Transforming the Delivery of Legal Services in Canada (Ottawa: Canadian Bar Association, August 2014).

[214] Action Committee, online: CFCJ <>.

[215] Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, Access to Civil & Family Justice: A Roadmap for Change (Ottawa: Action Committee, 2013) at 2.

[216] See e.g. Access to Justice BC, online: <https://acc>.

[217] Action Committee, “Canada’s Justice Development Goals”, online: <>.

[218] See e.g. various Canadian initiatives referenced in: Task Force on Justice, Justice for All – The report of the Task Force on Justice: conference version (New York: Center on International Cooperation, 2019).

[219] See e.g. Canadian Forum on Civil Justice, online: <>; University of Victoria, Access to Justice Centre for Excellence, online: <>; Cyberjustice Laboratory (discussed above), online: <>; National Self-Represented Litigants Project, online: <>, among others.

[220] See e.g. Hon. William F. Morneau, P.C., M.P., Federal Budget 2018, “Equality + Growth: A Strong Middle Class” (Tabled in House of Commons, 27 February 2018), c. 4, p. 165, online: Government of Canada <>.

[221] See Trevor C.W. Farrow and Lesley A. Jacobs, eds, The Justice Crisis: The Cost and Value of Accessing Law (Vancouver: UBC Press, forthcoming 2020) at Introduction.

[222] Action Committee, online: CFCJ <>.

[223] See e.g. Ontario Superior Court of Justice, “Notice to the Profession, the Public and Media Regarding Civil and Family Proceedings” (15 March 2020), online: <>; Bernise Carolino, “COVID-19 and the courts: April 20 update” Canadian Lawyer (20 April 2020), online: <>.

[224] See e.g. Lucy Saddleton, “Ontario lawyers launch pro bono legal service for essential workers during COVID-19 crisis” Canadian Lawyer (30 April 2020), online: <>.

[225] See e.g. Law Society of Ontario, “LSO COVID-19 Response”, online: LSO <>.

[226] See e.g. Bernise Carolino, “Roundup of law firm resources on COVID-19: April 30 update” Canadian Lawyer (30 April 2020), online: <>.

[227] See e.g. Canadian Bar Association, “COVID-19 Resource Hub”, online: <>; Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, “The Action Committee’s Monthly A2J Newsletter” (April 2020), online <>; National Self-Represented Litigants Project, “COVID-19 Resources Regularly Updated”, online: <>.

[228] See CLEO, online: <>.

[229] See e.g. Terry Davidson, “Courts can learn to modernize through COVID-19, experts say” The Lawyer’s Daily (20 March 2020), online: <>.

[230] Trevor C.W. Farrow, quoted in Ibid.

[231] Chief Justice Geoffrey Morawetz, quoted in Amanda Jerome, “‘Paper-based system is not going to exist anymore,’ Chief Justice Morawetz says of post-COVID-19 court” The Lawyer’s Daily (15 April 2020), online: <>.

[232] See Michael Spratt, “How will courts function after COVID-19?” Canadian Lawyer (17 April 2020), online: <>.

[233] See e.g. Trevor C.W. Farrow and Lesley A. Jacobs, eds, The Justice Crisis: The Cost and Value of Accessing Law (Vancouver: UBC Press, forthcoming 2020).

[234] World Justice Project, Rule of Law Index 2020, online: <>.