Welcome to the North Shore Pro Bono Society, founded by myself and Zahra Jenab, to offer West and North Vancouver residents of limited means quality pro bono legal services in the areas of family mediation and estate planning. Our goal and passion is to help those in our community who face access to justice barriers. It is also our goal to offer new mediators the opportunity to be mentored by experienced mediators. Finally, we seek to increase access to justice by offering affordable legal education to members of the public and practitioners in the areas of dispute resolution.
Many individuals in BC have difficulty affording a lawyer, have ongoing unresolved legal issues and often end up representing themselves in Court when they have a legal dispute. “Access to Justice” (or “A2J”) has been described as “equal justice under law”, meaning the equal ability to access legal institutions and services such as Courts and legal representation. A2J has similarly been defined as the ability of disputants to seek and obtain a remedy through formal (e.g., the Courts) or informal (e.g., mediation) institutions and services for resolving disputes. Canada is admired around the world as a model of democracy, grounded in the rule of law, whereby justice is available readily and equally to all. Yet, in practice, A2J is easier for some than for others, and for those unable to afford legal services, justice often remains elusive.
Indeed, there are stark differences between the wealthy and the rest of the population in terms of their ability to access basic legal services. Unfortunately, many people lack the financial means to obtain services required to address critical legal, mental health and dispute resolution issues facing their families upon marriage breakdown. Further, it is estimated that half of Canadians have no will.
Given the empirical evidence that unresolved legal problems tend to generate additional legal, social, economic and health problems, the prevalence of unmet need for family law legal services in particular is troubling. Unresolved family issues tend to trigger further legal problems, resulting in complex clusters of interrelated civil and criminal legal problems. Where the unmet legal need is as widespread and pervasive as it is in family law, these problems are downloaded onto the most vulnerable individuals among us, including children caught in the crossfire.
We seek to faciliate increased access to justice through offering dispute resolution education, mediation training and pro bono legal services for low income parties in estate and family law matters.
Please check back soon as we announce the dates of our upcoming pro bono clinics and education sessions.