VANCOUVER — The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada is preaching the need for improved access to justice for the public, particularly for civil and family matters.
Beverley McLachlin raised the issue on Saturday in a speech to the Canadian Bar Association’s annual conference.
She said there are many issues preventing people from having their day in court, such a lack of judges, and the number of cases before the courts.
“I think that justice is something which every citizen—every person in Canada—is entitled to,” McLachlin told reporters after her speech. “(But) people have problems accessing the justice system.
“The cost and delay involved in litigation may prevent people who have legal grievances, who have suffered wrongs, from bringing those forward,” she said.
McLachlin said judicial leaders across the country must make an effort to ensure the court systems in their jurisdictions are running smoothly.
If people don’t think they can get ready access to justice they won’t have high respect for the law, she said.
“Being able to access justice is fundamental to the rule of law,” she said.
She says Canada, unlike other nations, still believes access to justice is an important part of democracy.
However the Chief Justice stopped short of naming nations in which she feels the justice system is increasingly inaccessible.
McLachlin has raised the issue of access to the justice system on more than one occasion in the past.
Another issue put to McLachlin by reporters is the use of social media in the courtroom.
Recently B.C. became the third province to allow accredited media or lawyers to use social media such as twitter in courtrooms while cases are being heard.
The ruling effectively allows reporters to give a real time account of what is being said in a courtroom and has even been specifically banned in some courtrooms in the United States.
But, McLachlin said Canada’s supreme court has not made a firm decision on the issue.
“I know in some parts of the country it’s being done,” she said. “We’re looking at it.”