News Release
January 26, 2009

Chief Justice of Canada to discuss accessing the justice system at Law Society public forum

VANCOUVER — With some predicting the recent economic downturn will make it harder for low and middle income people to access the justice system, the time is now to discuss how to ensure people have access to one of the cornerstones of our democracy. This is especially true as many already find the cost and length of time it takes to pursue justice to be too much.

One of the groups with a big challenge in accessing the justice system is the middle class. They don’t have a low enough income to qualify for legal aid or pro bono services. And with the high cost of trials they might have to consider second mortgages or dipping into their children’s education funds to defend their civil rights — a decision that is even more difficult during tough economic times.

“Inaccessible justice is no justice,” said Gordon Turriff, QC, President of the Law Society of BC. “Ways must be found to ensure access for people who need help resolving their problems and need the court to decide right and wrong.”

“The Benchers of the Law Society — the board of directors — see access to justice as a matter of critical importance,” added Turriff, “so one of the many steps we’re taking is to present a public forum to discuss some of the barriers to accessing the justice system and potential creative solutions to overcome obstacles.”

The Law Society is presenting the forum, Clearing the Path to Justice, at 6:00 pm on Wednesday, January 28 at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, SFU, located at 580 W. Hastings Street.  Journalists are welcome. For advance media interviews, please contact Dana Bales, Cara McGregor or Michael Bernard.

The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, PC, Chief Justice of Canada, is the keynote speaker at the forum. Other distinguished panelists who will talk about access issues, including culture and language barriers are:

Grand Chief Edward John of the First Nations Summit of BC;

Lyall Knott, QC, of S.U.C.C.E.S.S, which runs legal clinics for people who speak Korean, Japanese and Mandarin in Greater Vancouver in conjunction with the Western Canada Society to Access Justice; and

Sue Talia, a private family law judge in California who will discuss a solution she’s been working on in her state to reduce the cost of legal services — a potential solution called unbundling that is expanding in British Columbia.

Community partners for the event are the Legal Services Society, the Western Canada Society to Access Justice and S.U.C.C.E.S.S.

The Law Society of BC was incorporated in 1884 and is the governing body of the legal profession in BC. Under the provisions of the Legal Profession Act, the Law Society is responsible for the licensing, professional conduct and discipline of the more than 11,000 lawyers in BC.

Law Society of BC media contacts:

Cara McGregor,
Communications Officer

Michael Bernard,
Manager, Communications & Public Affairs


604-697-5838 or cell 604-341-4535