Community engagement and legal services regulation

In the previous edition of the Legal Services Regulation Update, President Jill Perry wrote about how the Society’s efforts to transform regulation are motivated by a need to improve access to legal services and the justice system in Nova Scotia.

Improving access requires the Society to examine the legal sector and justice system from the perspective of the user, and to make changes based on the feedback received. The Society designed its #TalkJustice campaign with the goal of making this work more responsive to the concerns of Nova Scotia’s diverse communities. Here we provide a brief introduction to the first phase of #TalkJustice, along with plans for the second phase.

#TalkJustice

#TalkJustice
#TalkJustice had a very productive and informative first year in 2015. As we embarked on 2016, the Society unveiled the next chapter in this initiative to bring the public voice to the centre of justice reform efforts in Nova Scotia.  

On May 22, 2015, more than 100 people gathered at the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre in Halifax with Society staff and Council members to mark the release of the #TalkJustice report, which reflects the breadth of feedback received during the project’s first phase.

The Society’s initial goal was to learn how contact with the justice system and legal sector impacts the lives of Nova Scotians from equity-seeking and economically disadvantaged communities. Much of what was said was expected: the cost of legal representation, the overwhelming complexity of the system, and experiences with racism and discrimination put justice out of reach for many people.

The current phase
TalkJustice.ca was first imagined as a platform to house excerpts from conversations we had with Nova Scotians. These will continue, and this space is evolving into a hub for the Society’s efforts to include the public voice in high-level discussions about how to improve access to justice and legal services.

Via the #TalkJustice platform, we are now introducing the Society’s community engagement strategy, sharing projects we’re working on and conversations we’re having, and talking openly about what makes justice system reform difficult. We’re placing this work in the context of Nova Scotia’s history and national conversations about access to justice, while highlighting community projects in Nova Scotia and sharing innovative ideas from other jurisdictions.

Public protection mandate 
Regular public consultation is part of the Society’s mandate to seek to improve the administration of justice, under section 4(1) of the Legal Profession Act. #TalkJustice stems from the Strategic Framework set out by Council: a key activity is to “advocate for enhanced access to legal services and to the justice system for equity-seeking and economically disadvantaged groups.”

Also driving the project are several national #A2J studies such as Access to Civil and Family Justice: A Roadmap for Change from October 2013, which calls for “putting the public first”.

The issues raised in #TalkJustice are helping to inform the Society’s priorities for future access to justice initiatives. The project also aims to strengthen community engagement around #A2J, by building a dedicated space where conversations between the public and ‘the system’ can continue to grow.

– Jane Willwerth, NSBS Information Specialist | Feb. 2, 2016