Justice access centre pilot project underway

From Wally Oppal, QC, Attorney General of BC

The Ministry of Attorney General and the Legal Services Society are partnering to establish justice access centres in Nanaimo and Vancouver as part of a pilot project that will give the public early and affordable solutions to civil and family justice issues.

The Nanaimo project is scheduled to open its doors in October and will be an expansion of the Nanaimo Family Justice Services Centre that opened in April 2007. The Vancouver justice access centre will open in 2009.

The BC Family Justice Reform Working Group and the B.C. Civil Justice Reform Working Group both recommended that information and service "centres" be established. They recognized that co-ordinating existing services makes it easier for people to use the justice system and that providing information and services early is the best way to help individuals from having legal issues arise and, when they do occur, resolve issues quickly.

The idea behind the justice access centre pilot project is simple — to test an integrated approach that gives clients a one-stop shop for information and services. Clients can benefit from legal information, advice, mediation and other services that will help them resolve their justice problems. Most importantly, they can receive assistance all in one location.

The pilot projects will bring together legal, pro bono, advocacy, community agency and government services. Justice access centres are funded, in part, through grants from the Law Foundation of BC. The Ministry of Attorney General, along with other justice, health and social service ministries, is continuing a three-year plan to ensure the justice system meets the needs of individuals, families, businesses and communities in an effective, timely and meaningful way.

We are certainly looking forward to seeing the results of these two pilot projects. We will be performing a thorough evaluation on the projects before any decisions will be made on possible expansion into other communities in British Columbia. I congratulate all the people involved in these two centres.