A Nova Scotian community engagement project is asking residents to share their stories about their interactions with the legal system. From fighting parking tickets and criminal charges to hiring a lawyer and preparing a will, the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society wants to compile the good, bad and ugly stories to help make changes to the legal system in Nova Scotia. The stories will be fed through research software to find patterns and connections between different people’s experiences.
In 2013, Justice Thomas Cromwell, formerly of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal and later the Supreme Court of Canada, released his report on the state of access to justice in Canada. It revealed a dire lack of access to justice problem across Canada. He challenge the provinces to put the public first.
The #TalkJustice project was initially launched in 2014 by the Access to Justice Coordinating Committee in response to this call. It is now being led by the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society. The second phase of the project is the story collecting initiative.
On the justification for such a project, the Honourable Chief Justice Michael MacDonald was quoted saying: “Too many people still view our legal system as unfamiliar and intimidating.” The goal is to create fail safe experimental programs to test possible solutions, with the intention of improving access to justice and the legal system.
The stories are being collected anonymously via the #TalkJustice website (www.talkjustice.ca)
A 2015 #TalkJustice report can be read here. Some of the notable findings include those in poverty feeling like there is no justice for them. Many people commented on their interactions with law enforcement, which was outside of the scope of the project. One contributor said:
“How can a lawyer represent me when they don’t even have the time to get to know me? And if they don’t believe me or can’t try to understand where I’m coming from, they can’t really represent me.”
Improving access to justice begins with understanding what the barriers are by hearing from those who have actually had interactions with the legal system. All of us will interact with the legal system in one way or another in our lifetime. It is in all of our benefits to support and contribute to this important initiative.
The initial research findings will be publicly available in the spring of 2017.
This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the view of the CCLA or PBSC.