During the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) AGM, held on the 18th February 2021, the CBA released its new report on COVID-19 and the justice system ‘No Turning Back’. The report, which was produced by a special task force, has concluded that there can be no return to the way things worked in the legal profession and the justice systems before the pandemic.
The report suggests that the pandemic has brought changes to the Canadian legal profession which have been long-awaited. The report includes a number of recommendations, to the CBA, around continuing and building on these changes in order to create a more innovative and effective justice system, which the population can have confidence in. Its recommendations include:
- Collaborate with domestic and international justice system partners on best practices
- Ensure that changes enhance access to justice instead of detracting from it by minimizing unintended consequences, including breaches of privacy
- Consider the impact on marginalized groups of implementing AI and other emerging technologies
The task force, established in April, 2020, brought together CBA members and justice system partners from across the country to assess the immediate and evolving issues for the delivery of legal services resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
CBA President, and task force Co-Chair, Brad Regehr has said “The pandemic kick-started a modernization of the way the legal profession and the justice system provide services – something the CBA has been advocating for a long time. We now need to make sure these changes are sustainable and that they are properly implemented to enhance access to justice. ”
Read the full report here.
The intensifying physical and socio-economic effects of climate change, mainstreamed by political debates and scientific evidence on anthropogenic disruptions to the global climate system, have motivated changing legislation, regulation, litigation, and institutions. But legal education is not keeping up; climate change has not yet been taught well and broadly in Canadian law schools. While a few schools have offered climate law courses, the majority have not done so in any systematic way. The unprecedentedly expanding demands from youth and students for aggressive climate action should call the attention of law schools to the roles they should play in combatting climate change.
Chen, Ling, Canadian Law Schools Must Do Their Part to Help Combat Climate Change (January 6, 2020). Policy Options (February 18, 2020),
Read the full article on SSRN.
On the 7th December 2020 the Federation of Law Societies of Canada released a formal statement of commitment to reconciliation. The statement was in recognition of the federation’s responsibility as a justice stakeholder to foster reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
The statement received the unanimous approval of the Federation Council and is an essential part of the Federation’s framework for responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (“TRC”) Calls to Action. It recognizes the role that justice system participants play in fostering truth and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada and highlights the steps that the Federation will take in fulfilling its commitment.
The statement which was developed in consultation with members of the Federations Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action Advisory Committee and Indigenous legal experts, includes a statement of guiding principles which apply across all work, as well as nine specific recommendations.
View the federation’s statement here.
The Canadian Bar Association has released a new guide aimed at addressing the country’s access to justice crisis. The guide has been developed by the CBS’s Access to Justice Subcommittee, based on past research, particularly the Reaching Equal Justice Report. The guide is divided into three different sections, with each section providing background to the issues and links to resources created by the CBA. The sections are broken down into
- Preventing Problems – focused on improving legal capability, taking legal health seriously, enhancing triage and referral systems to navigate paths to justice as quickly and efficiently as possible, and taking steps to ensure that technology is well used to facilitate equal, inclusive justice.
- Providing Legal Services – focused on reinventing the delivery of legal services so that a wide spectrum of legal services are available to meet the range of legal needs.
- Transforming Justice – focused on reforming the formal justice system, complementing informal everyday justice innovations and eliminating gaps between formal and informal justice to create a seamless civil justice system.
The goal of the guide is to give members the information and tools to talk about access to justice with colleagues, clients and communities, post on social media about access to justice issues, and to speak with politicians about the problems – and possible solutions.
The guide says “As lawyers and notaries, we have a professional duty to the courts, the justice system and the public. We need people to feel confident that the justice system is fair and accessible to all. Governments need to invest more and develop creative solutions to our access to justice problem. Change only comes when governments are pressured to act.”
Access the guide here.
Through my experiences opening the first new law school in Ontario in 44 years, I have had time to reflect on my own teaching style and have employed what has been termed “Dialogue Pedagogy.” Using an auto-ethnography methodology in this paper, I will examine ways of teaching the law including the case-law system of study distilling black-letter law and the Socratic Method which is widely considered the preferred method in legal education. I argue that there is a better, and more humane, way to teach our law school students.
Experience has shown that although students get training on issue identification, they are not taught to plan a solution by dialoguing with the relevant actors. It has been my challenge to come up with an adequate teaching and evaluation method that allows students to do an interactive assignment. I have found that law students need more opportunities to access their emotional intelligence and interactions with real people, and I have captured this skill in my mandatory 1L Tort class through an exercise I call the “Torts Crime Scene.”
Connecting our students to life and humanity and having empathy for others is perhaps one of the most important things that we do. Having students learn dusty legal maxims is, for good or bad, essential. However, being able to connect what they are learning to them personally, their family, their friends, their fellow human beings is paramount. Our students have changed, and so too, our teaching must change. The transformation cannot simply be a system of add-ons but of fundamental review and evolution.
Chapman, Frances, A Conversation About Canadian Legal Education: Lakehead University and Dialogue Pedagogy (September 1, 2020). (2020) 21:1 The Western Michigan University Cooley Journal of Practical & Clinical Law 1, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3690384
The Federation has adopted an overarching framework to guide it on the path to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada. Laid out in a report from the Federation’s TRC Calls to Action Advisory Committee (“Advisory Committee”), the framework is rooted in the recognition of the significance of Indigenous legal orders, legal principles, and the perspectives and experiences of Indigenous peoples.
The framework encourages a broad approach to reconciliation while specifically addressing two of the Calls to Action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Final Report, which highlighted the need to raise awareness and competence among all legal professionals and law students in Canada as it relates to Indigenous peoples.
Read the full story.
The Law Society of Saskatchewan has released a new episode of its Legal Skies podcast, outlining the ongoing changes to legal education in Canada, as well as the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had and will have on education and training. The podcast features Dr. Kara Mitchelmore of the Canadian Centre for Professional Legal Education (CPLED), and features discussion about the new practice readiness education programme, as well as ongoing issues around remote learning and assessment.
Listen to the podcast.
The Candian Bar Association has launched a survey to gather information about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on young lawyers and students. Anecdotal evidence gathered by the association has suggested that early-career lawyers have been disproportionately adversely affected by the pandemic, finding it difficult to get work experience, find first jobs or articling positions. Many have also raised the issue that they are losing access to valuable learning opportunities through remote working.
The survey has been set up to gather further data around the issue, to allow the association to begin to address the issue.
View the Bar associations comments about the survey.
The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) has opened registration for a series of lectures on digital literacy in the law. The aim is to equip legal practitioners with the digital skills to ensure that both their and their clients’ personal information is being properly handled and secured in a digital environment. The programme has been launched in light of the increase in the use of innovative technologies in law firms, as well as the increasing likelihood of virtual courtrooms and hearings.
Topics covered by the sessions will include
- Protection of technology and the risks of downplaying cybersecurity
- cyber resilience in lawyers and law firms
- digital authentication
Read the Bar Association’s announcement on the programme.
The Law Society of Ontario has announced that they will allow their June Barrister and Solicitor exams, and their July Paralegal exams to take place online in response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
CEO Diana Miles has said: “The Law Society is confident that the new online delivery model will continue to ensure entry-level competence which is in the public interest. This will also provide candidates with an opportunity to fulfil the requirements of the licensing process during this unprecedented crisis.”
For more information see the full article on the Law Society of Ontario site.