UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Current trends in Canadian civil justice system reform : manufactured simplicity or equitable access to justice? Cumming, Kaitlyn


The civil access to justice problem in Canada is recognized as a crisis, but even with widespread justice system stakeholder recognition and ongoing attempts at reform, progress is slow. This thesis undertakes a critical review of modern civil access to justice reforms and jurisprudential developments, using British Columbia as the site of inquiry, to identify limitations to the current approach. Then, by analyzing the current state of inequality in Canada, and using existing sociological research into processes of cumulative advantage and disadvantage in society, it argues that an expanded framework that will lead to more responsive access to justice reforms is one that takes into account the broader context of socioeconomic stratification and inequality in Canada and that asks how these have impacted the evolution of Canada’s civil justice system. This analysis also makes clear that achieving progress in civil access to justice requires a conception of access to justice that focuses on the concept of equitable access to justice, which is one that seeks to level the playing field by neutralizing disproportionate advantage or disadvantage in navigating the civil justice system either through structural system change or policy interventions such as robust legal aid funding to provide wider availability of legal representation. It then operationalizes this expanded framework by conducting an exploratory mixed methodology study, through quantitative statistical case outcome analysis and qualitative interviews of low income legal service providers, that looks at the relationship between: (1) British Columbia’s procedural and jurisdictional structure; (2) legal outcomes; and (3) legally advantaged and disadvantaged users. Lastly, it provides recommendations for future study and reforms that will advance the cause of equitable access to justice.

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