Equity & access

Access to justice

What it is

A person’s access to justice is denied when they run into barriers that prevent them from solving their legal problems. Barriers can be physical, psychological, financial or social in nature. People who are denied access to justice can include:

  • someone who can’t afford to hire a lawyer but doesn’t qualify for Legal Aid;
  • someone who can’t access a courthouse due to a physical disability;
  • someone who is trying to represent themselves in court but cannot understand the forms they are required to fill out;
  • someone who wants to hire a lawyer but lives in a rural community where no lawyers currently practise; and
  • someone whose lawyer fails to recognize how their Aboriginal status affects their case.

Nova Scotians face serious consequences when denied access to justice, including financial hardship, loss of employment and emotional distress.

The Society’s role

The Society's mandate and legislation require it to work to improve the administration of justice. This involves identifying ways the justice system could be more efficient, equitable and affordable; addressing issues of racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination in the justice system; and ensuring that the legal profession adequately reflects the public it serves. See About the Equity & Access Office to learn more.

How the Society works to increase access to justice

The Equity & Access Office exists to fulfil the Society’s mandate to improve access to justice in Nova Scotia. The Office provides resources to all Society departments, Council and Committees on issues of equity, diversity, discrimination and access to justice, and plays a leadership and consultative role in community engagement. Equity & Access Office activities fall under priority areas identified through the Society’s strategic framework, equity committees and input from community voices.

Activities for 2015-2016 fall under the following priority areas:

Community engagement: Activities related to consulting with individuals and community groups regarding their experiences with the justice system and how they would like to see it work differently.

Cultural competence: Activities related to improving the knowledge, skills and attitudes required for lawyers working with Nova Scotia’s diverse communities.

Equity in the profession: Activities that support lawyers in their efforts to meet obligations related to Regulatory Objective #5 – to “promote diversity, inclusion, substantive equality and freedom from discrimination in the delivery of legal services and the justice system”.

For more information about current Equity & Access Office initiatives, visit our current activities page.

For resources and tools for lawyers and law students, visit our resources page.

For Equity & Access Office publications and foundational documents, visit our reports & studies page.