Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin says “the most pressing challenge facing the administration of justice” in this country is ensuring that Canadians are able to access the system.
McLachlin made the comments at the Canadian Bar Association's annual meeting in Saskatoon this weekend.
Delegates at the conference are discussing the merits of several proposed legal reforms, including those stemming from the results of a new report by the CBA, titled Reaching Equal Justice.
The report says many Canadians cannot afford legal counsel, or the costs of seeing their cases through the court.
The report identified four priorities in improving access to justice nationally: access to legal services, the simplification of court processes, family law and prevention, triage and referral.
In each of these areas a working group of CBA legal professionals investigated specific ways of improving legal access nationally.
“We are contemplating changes to the system to make it more affordable. For example, rule changes. All of that involves the government ... so the government is an important player,” McLachlin said.
Robert Brun, President of The Canadian Bar Association told CBC News on Friday that he is cautiously optimistic that their recommendations and the report will not fall on deaf ears when it comes to implementing changes to the current system at the federal level.
“If people don't have the economic resources to retain lawyers to protect their interests and to get their cases before judges to decide them on the facts and law, then they don't have access to justice,” Brun said.
Brun says improving citizens' legal agency will help combat problems like over-crowded correctional facilities.
“There is overcrowding of prison facilities in the North, in Saskatchewan," he said. "The Canadian Bar Association has come time and again with ideas.”