In 2015, the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society led the justice community in an engagement campaign to hear from the public about their experiences with the justice system. For Access to Justice Week 2023, we are taking a look at this project and sharing how it still informs our work.
#TalkJustice was a community outreach initiative designed to allow the Society to better understand the challenges and barriers equity-seeking communities face when going through the justice system. Through #TalkJustice, the Society hoped to strengthen our rapport with equity-seeking and economically disadvantaged communities and to improve relationships between these communities and other justice system sectors, including the Courts, police, and social services.
#TalkJustice started with a series of meetings and interviews throughout Fall 2014 and Winter 2015 with community groups, individuals, and justice system actors to generate in-depth, frank discussions about barriers to justice for Nova Scotia’s diverse communities.
The goal of #TalkJustice was to open discussions and advance access to justice in the province. The Society launched the report at the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre at an event that included members of the public and justice community stakeholders.
The launch event was structured to be solutions-oriented, with a particular focus on generating ideas for collaboration between the Society, other justice system actors, and the public. The activities were designed to bring justice system actors and community members together to have candid discussions on equal footing, where everybody’s contributions were valued.
Through this work, the Society developed a new approach to engagement, focusing on being sincere, substantive and sustained.
Sincere: A genuine desire to incorporate feedback into our work.
Substantive: A deliberate effort to plan for engagement and how findings will be used.
Sustained: A commitment to transparency, continuous communication, and keeping promises.
These pillars have helped promote positive discourse and creating meaningful change with the communities that the Society engages with. From the #TalkJustice engagement, the Society heard from the public about the need for a culturally competent bar as a pillar of access to justice. Since then, the Society has introduced cultural competence training for all articled clerks as well as Indigenous cultural competence training for all practising members. These steps are part of the Society advancing the public interest and improving access to justice for Nova Scotians.
If you are interested in reading the #TalkJustice report, it is available here.