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Access_open Canadian Civil Justice: Relief in Small and Simple Matters in an Age of Efficiency

Journal Erasmus Law Review, Issue 4 2015
Keywords Canada, small and simple matters, austerity, civil justice, access to justice
Authors Jonathan Silver and Trevor C.W. Farrow
AbstractAuthor's information

    Canada is in the midst of an access to justice crisis. The rising costs and complexity of legal services in Canada have surpassed the need for these services. This article briefly explores some obstacles to civil justice as well as some of the court-based programmes and initiatives in place across Canada to address this growing access to justice gap. In particular, this article explains the Canadian civil justice system and canvasses the procedures and programmes in place to make the justice system more efficient and improve access to justice in small and simple matters. Although this article does look briefly at the impact of the global financial crisis on access to justice efforts in Canada, we do not provide empirical data of our own on this point. Further, we conclude that there is not enough existing data to draw correlations between austerity measures in response to the global crisis and the challenges facing Canadian civil justice. More evidence-based research would be helpful to understand current access to justice challenges and to make decisions on how best to move forward with meaningful innovation and policy reform. However, there is reason for optimism in Canada: innovative ideas and a national action plan provide reason to believe that the country can simplify, expedite, and increase access to civil justice in meaningful ways over the coming years.


Jonathan Silver
Jonathan Silver, B.A. Honors, J.D. 2015, Osgoode Hall Law School.

Trevor C.W. Farrow
Trevor C.W. Farrow is Professor and Associate Dean, Osgoode Hall Law School. He is very grateful to Jonathan Silver, who took the lead in researching and writing this article.

    The seriousness of the incorporation problem in interdisciplinary legal research, this article argues, depends on how legal research is understood. If legal research is understood as a single, inherently interdisciplinary discipline, the problem largely falls away. On this view, the incorporation of other disciplines into legal research is what legal academics have for the last 40 years already successfully been doing. If, on the other hand, legal research is best conceived as a multi-disciplinary field, consisting of a core discipline – doctrinal research – and various other types of mono-disciplinary and interdisciplinary research, the incorporation of other disciplines presents real difficulties. For legal academics engaged in socio-legal research, in particular, two problems arise: the practical problem of trying to address a legal professional and academic audience at the same time and the philosophical problem of trying to integrate the internal perspective of doctrinal research with the external perspective of other disciplines. In the final part of the article, these practical and philosophical difficulties are illustrated by reference to the author’s research on the politics of judicial review in new democracies.


Theunis Robert Roux
Theunis Robert Roux is Professor of Law at the University of New South Wales, Australia.
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