B.C. access to justice network asking for input on ensuring family well-being in legal system

By Ian Burns

Law360 Canada (January 27, 2021, 9:22 AM EST) -- As British Columbia marks its newest access to justice week, an organization dedicated to access issues has announced it will pilot an initiative focused on how to better achieve family well-being in the justice system.

Access to Justice BC (A2JBC), a network of government and non-government organizations committed to improving access in the civil and family justice system, revealed details of its Transform the Family Justice System (TFJS) collaborative Jan. 25.

 B.C. Chief Justice Robert Bauman

B.C. Chief Justice Robert Bauman

As part of the initiative, A2JBC is reaching out to justice sector leaders, system participants, lawyers and Indigenous and community groups to share their experiences and provide recommendations on how the system can be transformed to support and enhance the well-being of families who engage with it.

A2JBC has posted three videos, which look at the reasons why the family justice system needs to be transformed, Indigenous perspectives on family justice and the perspective of a self-represented litigant on her experiences with the system. B.C. Chief Justice Robert Bauman, who also serves as A2JBC chair, said the justice system’s usual approach to family law has been to focus on courts, lawyers and government agencies.

“The collaborative instead will place children, youth and families at the centre, and recognize that the justice sector is one of many serving B.C. families,” he said. “I call upon all people and organizations working within and outside of the justice system to join us in taking this novel, evidence-based and progressive approach to transforming our province’s family justice system.”

 B.C. Attorney General David Eby

B.C. Attorney General David Eby

A2JBC’s announcement comes as B.C. marks access to justice week, which runs until Jan. 30. Designed primarily to engage law students and legal professionals, access to justice week provides information and learning opportunities about the access crisis in the province and aims to inspire engagement in the A2J movement.

B.C. Attorney General David Eby said COVID-19 hit the justice system hard which required the courts and the government to move quickly to limit the impact on British Columbians while following public health advice to maintain access to justice under a “new normal.”

“We’ve made significant changes as a result of the pandemic, from adjusting courtrooms for physical distancing to introducing new technologies to resolve cases virtually. We’ve seen rapid — and much needed — transformation in our courts, with new systems for virtual filings and hearings so people have more options to resolve their issues,” he said. “Our work to increase access to justice for British Columbians continues as we embark on a new year with some groundbreaking changes ahead for our justice system.”

More information about access to justice week can be found here. For those interested in taking part in the TFJS collaborative, e-mail contact@accesstojusticebc.ca.

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