The Middle Income Access to Civil Justice Initiative


Middle Income Access to Justice

Middle Income Access to Justice

Edited by Michael Trebilcock, Anthony Duggan, and Lorne Sossin

This book features contributions by leading Canadian and international scholars, practitioners, and members of the judiciary, this multidisciplinary collection draws on scholarship in the fields of law, social science, and public policy.

Publisher's web page


Access to Justice Town Hall

On Nov. 21, 2012 the Faculty of Law hosted a town hall on access to justice to launch the book Middle Income Access to Justice, featuring legal experts and Ellen Roseman of the Toronto Star.

Watch a webcast of the town hall.



Open Access

Find out more about the Access to Justice Initiative in the cover article "Open Access" from the Spring/Summer 2010 issue of Nexus.

The University of Toronto Faculty of Law has launched a multi-pronged initiative aimed at addressing the growing problem of middle income access to the civil legal justice system in Canada.

The impetus for this initiative was the 2008 Report of the Legal Aid Review, prepared by the Faculty's Professor Michael Trebilcock and commissioned by the Attorney General of Ontario. A key finding of the Report is that there is an acute lack of access to justice for the working poor and middle class in Ontario, evidenced most strikingly by the increasing phenomenon of unrepresented litigants.  In his Report, Professor Trebilcock recommended that both Legal Aid Ontario and the Government of Ontario accord a high priority to rendering the legal aid system more relevant to ordinary Ontarians, which he observed would in turn have the effect of giving more middle income citizens a stake in the justice system.

This university-based initiative, unique to UofT law school, is the first concerted effort to tackle this problem that could have far-reaching impact right across Canada. Access to civil justice by ordinary Canadians is one of the most crucial challenges currently facing the legal profession. In Ontario, financial eligibility requirements for legal aid services remain frozen at extremely low levels, leaving increasing numbers of people ineligible for legal aid services or assistance through the clinic system. Only those in the lowest income brackets qualify for most forms of legal aid, while market rates for legal services continue to climb. Furthermore, a staggering number of Ontarians are trying to navigate a complex justice system without adequate, or in some cases any, legal representation.

Over the past months, the steering committee has conducted extensive interviews with members of the bar, judiciary, and academy in Canada and internationally, and has facilitated focus groups in three of the highest-needs areas of civil justice: family law, employment law, and consumer debtor/creditor law.

Middle Income Access to Civil Justice Colloquium

The next stage of the project was the Middle Income Access to Civil Justice Colloquium, which was held February 10 and 11, 2011 at the University of Toronto. The aim of the invitation-only Colloquium, which brought together 80 recognized experts on access to justice from across Canada, as well as from the US, the UK, and Australia, was to facilitate meaningful discussion and to generate concrete policy proposals on the relevant issues. The Chief Justice of Canada, the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, P.C., addressed the Colloquium as keynote speaker. 

Other speakers included, amongst many distinguished individuals:

  • The Honourable Chris Bentley, Attorney General of Ontario
  • The Honourable Chief Justice of Ontario Warren K. Winkler
  • Ontario Court of Appeal justices the Honourable Stephen Goudge and the Honourable Gloria Epstein
  • The Honourable Justice Coulter A. Osborne, head of the Ontario Civil Justice Reform Project
  • Ontario Superior Court of Justice judges the Honourable Colin Campbell and the Honourable George Czutrin
  • John McCamus, Professor and Chair of Legal Aid Ontario
  • The Honourable Marion Boyd, former Attorney General of Ontario and co-chair of the Law Society of Upper Canada Access to Justice Committee
  • Rebecca Sandefur, head of the American Bar Foundation's Access to Justice Research Initiative
  • Roger Smith, OBE, director of the UK human rights and law reform organization JUSTICE
  • Julie Mathews, Executive Director, Community Legal Education Ontario
  • Professor Justin Malbon of Monash University Law School in Australia. 

Many of these speakers presented papers at the Colloquium, and the Initiative Steering Committee aims to publish these papers, together with three policy papers, following the Colloquium.

The Colloquium is one component of an initiative that would not have been possible without the participation and expertise of many individuals and organizations beyond the Faculty of Law. The Steering Committee's goal in developing the Initiative has been to enhance, as opposed to duplicate, the important efforts of others, while taking advantage of the Faculty's role as a research and teaching institution. We are indebted to Dean Mayo Moran for her inspiring leadership in creating this initiative, and her vision in recognizing that law schools have a critical role to play in some of the most pressing issues facing the legal profession today.

UofT Faculty of Law Middle Income Access to Civil Justice Steering Committee

  • Professor Michael Trebilcock, University of Toronto Faculty of Law (Chair) 
  • Professor Anthony Duggan, University of Toronto Faculty of Law 
  • Acting Assistant Dean Students Judith McCormack, University of Toronto Faculty of Law/ Executive Director, Downtown Legal Services
  • Professor Carol Rogerson, University of Toronto Faculty of Law 
  • Dean Lorne Sossin, Osgoode Hall Law School 
  • Nikki Gershbain, National Director, Pro Bono Students Canada 
  • Emily Orchard, Director, Career Services Office, University of Toronto Faculty of Law 
  • Andrea Russell, Executive Director, Office of the Dean, University of Toronto Faculty of Law 
  • Kim Snell, Director, Centre for the Legal Profession, University of Toronto Faculty of Law

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