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Access to Justice: New fund aiming at solutions | Beverley McLachlin

Thursday, September 19, 2019 @ 9:04 AM | By Beverley McLachlin

Beverley McLachlin %>
Beverley McLachlin
On Sept. 10, 2019, the Beverley McLachlin Access to Justice Fund was launched. The fund’s aim is to provide financing for innovative approaches to improving access to civil and family justice. Through an application process the Fund will allow individuals and organizations to explore, test, measure and grow good ideas that advance our progress. We will begin receiving applications next year, with a transparent and publicly available application process.

While I cannot take credit for the imagination and energy that led to the creation of this much-needed Fund, I am honoured that it bears my name. Access to justice for every woman, man and child in Canada has long been a personal passion, and this Fund will make a significant contribution to realizing that goal.

As I travel across Canada, I am continuously impressed by the level of dedication, enthusiasm and expertise that people bring to their work in access to justice. I am confident that injecting financial support into this environment will bring the kinds of results we know we can achieve.

Increasingly, we are recognizing that the response to the access to justice crisis in Canada is a shared responsibility, requiring a multifaceted approach. While governments, courts and lawyers have significant roles to play, they are not the only actors on the stage. And, more importantly, they are not the only actors with good ideas about access to justice.

Inside the legal system, public legal education organizations, not-for-profits, clinics, law foundations, pro bono organizations and law schools are working actively on finding small and large-scale solutions. Outside the traditional justice system boundaries, there are even more potential contributors — the legal tech industry is booming, incubators for legal startups are filled with smart entrepreneurs and multi-sectoral approaches crossing health care, social work and education are recognizing that access to justice is a life problem. For a look at some of the activities happening in access to justice in Canada, click here:
However, the work is not easy. Too often, efforts to improve access to justice lack adequate and sustained funding. They lurch from crisis to crisis and find themselves unable to pursue sustained projects — projects that could make a great difference to the lives of individuals. The Fund announced on Sept. 10 will help alleviate these problems and allow individuals and organizations dedicated to better justice attain their goals.

Access to justice is not an intractable problem that we must accept as our reality. The solutions — and I believe that the answers do rest in multiple solutions rather than one “silver bullet” — require all of us to contribute, with our ingenuity, our hard work, our platforms and our financial capital.

I am deeply grateful to those who have used all taken the first steps to launching this Fund, using all four of those elements. The founding members of the Governing Council have been very active over the past year, working to conceptualize, organize and manage the launch of the Fund. Those who have made this fund a reality are too many to mention, but I would be remiss not to single out my dear friend and former colleague at the Supreme Court of Canada, Tom Cromwell, who has led the drive to make this Fund a reality. My deep thanks to him and to all who helped him in realizing this project.

Finally, I would like to thank all those who have so generously contributed to the establishment of the Fund. No fund would exist without its donors. Thanks to them we are already close to meeting our $10 million goal. I am grateful for the support of everyone who has given donations, including: the government of Canada; Bennett Jones LLP; Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP; Borden Ladner Gervais LLP; Federation of Law Societies of Canada; Gestion Cabinet Woods Inc.; Goodmans LLP; McCarthy Tétrault LLP; Norton Rose Fulbright; Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP; Power Corporation of Canada; Stewart McKelvey; Stikeman Elliott LLP; and Torys LLP.

For more information about the Fund or to donate, visit
The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin served as chief justice of Canada from 2000 to mid-December 2017. She now works as an arbitrator and mediator in Canada and internationally and also sits as a justice of Singapore’s International Commercial Court and the Hong Kong Final Court of Appeal. She chairs the Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters.