community justice
community justice

International report explores community legal services for better access to justice

International report explores community legal services for better access to justice
Examples of what community-based justice can include. Credit: Exploring Community-Based Services, Costs and Benefits for People-Centered Justice (2023).

Community legal clinics, paralegal services, social workers and others assisting those who cannot easily access legal help, are a few ways of narrowing the gap in accessing justice that’s prevalent across the globe, says York University legal expert Professor Trevor Farrow, co-author of a new international report released today.

The report, Exploring Community-Based Services, Costs and Benefits for People-Centered Justice, is a review of recent studies conducted by researchers in Kenya, Sierra Leone, South Africa, and Canada, to understand how effective grassroots support systems are in alleviating, if not eliminating, barriers to justice.

The research is part of Community-Based Justice Research (CBJR) project. The Canadian Forum on Civil Justice (CFCJ), based at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University, played a lead role in co-ordinating the project.

According to Farrow, associate dean of research at Osgoode, the inaccessibility of legal services is a common issue, be it in Kenya, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Canada, or rest of the world. In fact, the United Nations has identified access to justice as a global crisis that—through its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—requires collective efforts and shared solutions, continues Farrow.

According to earlier research from the CFCJ, approximately 50 percent of adult Canadians will experience a legal problem in any given three-year period. “Like the rest of the world, there is an access-to-justice crisis in Canada,” notes Farrow, who also serves as chair of the CFCJ. “Law and legal issues are everywhere, but very few people can afford legal help.”

Grassroots-level support can help change this situation for the better, says CFCJ Senior Research Fellow Ab Currie, who also co-authored the report.

“Getting access to trained social workers at drop-in shelters, support workers at community

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