About the Working Group
“[A]ccess to justice is the most important issue facing the legal system”.
– Rt. Honourable Beverley McLachlin, PC, Chief Justice of Canada
The National Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters’, Access to Civil and Family Justice: A Roadmap for Change 2013 (A Roadmap for Change), chaired by the Honourable Mr. Justice Cromwell of the Supreme Court of Canada, and the Canadian Bar Association’s Reaching Equal Justice Report have called upon each of the provinces and territories to create a mechanism, structure, or institution such as a “Working Group” to improve access to justice across Canada. In A Roadmap for Change, these working groups were described as multi-stakeholder collaborations that would “promote, design, and implement change” related to improving access to justice “on a sustained and ongoing basis” (at 20).
The Saskatchewan Access to Justice Working Group (the Working Group) was created in January 2016 to promote, design, and implement this very change – i.e. to identify areas in need of reform, and to provide advice and feedback about initiatives related to improving access to justice on a sustained and ongoing basis across the province.
The Working Group builds off of the successful collaborations formed through the Dean’s Forum on Dispute Resolution and Access to Justice (the Dean’s Forum), and has been established in response to both the national calls to action, and a local recommendation by participants at the 2015 meeting of the Dean’s Forum.
The Working Group is co-chaired by the dean of the College of Law and the deputy minister of justice and deputy attorney general, is supported by the access to justice coordinator, and involves multi-stakeholder membership and collaboration.
Since 2013, the University of Saskatchewan College of Law has hosted the Dean’s Forum on Dispute Resolution and Access to Justice (the Dean’s Forum). The Dean’s Forum has proven to be a unique and valuable platform for connecting key stakeholders, generating innovative ideas, and inspiring change to address gaps in the current Saskatchewan justice system.
In the National Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters’ (the National Action Committee’s), A Roadmap for Change, Justice Cromwell encourages provinces to create provincial working groups focused on addressing the issue of access to justice. It was agreed by members at the March 2015 meeting of the Dean’s Forum, that a Saskatchewan Access to Justice Working Group (Working Group) be built on the successful and unique foundation of the Dean’s Forum.
The Dean’s Forum continues annually or biannually, and will maintain the core elements of student participation and multi-stakeholder collaboration. The Working Group provides an advisory/oversight role to the Dean’s Forum, and provides advice for implementation of ideas generated, as appropriate.
In addition to the establishment of a Working Group, it was also suggested by members of the Dean’s Forum, that a coordinator role be created to facilitate research and writing through the Dean’s Forum course, to coordinate Working Group activities, and to implement recommendations flowing out of the Dean’s Forum.
Brea Lowenberger was hired during October 2015 as the access to justice coordinator for the Working Group. The access to justice coordinator position has been funded by the Law Foundation of Saskatchewan, with support from the College of Law. Lowenberger supports the work of the Working Group and the Dean’s Forum, as well as connects with justice community stakeholders, students, and the community at large on initiatives that promote justice reform and access to justice.
Following Lowenberger’s hiring, the Working Group was established, and the first meeting of the Working Group took place during January 2016 at the University of Saskatchewan College of Law. The Working Group is set to meet a minimum of twice per year.
The following is a summary of the guiding principles, objectives, and activities of the Working Group. Check back soon for the Working Group mandate document.
The Working Group is guided by the principles established by the National Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters. The “Six Guiding Principles for Change” are as follows:
- Put the public first;
- Collaborate and co-ordinate;
- Prevent and educate;
- Simplify, make coherent, proportional and sustainable;
- Take action; and
- Focus on outcomes.
The core objectives of the Working Group are as follows:
- To encourage the co-ordination of initiatives that make justice more accessible for Saskatchewan residents;
- To learn about the problem of inadequate access to justice;
- To provide leadership and action on improving access to justice;
- To foster engagement, communication, and collaboration with a diverse group of partners;
- To foster a “public first” approach to all justice processes and services; and
- To focus on results and to facilitate consultation, co-ordination, planning, program design, implementation and monitoring of change within the justice system.
The Working Group supports the following activities:
- Working Group meetings
- Supports the hosting of the annual or bi-annual Dean’s Forum
- Collaboration and engagement
- Innovation and capacity building
Working Group members support, as appropriate, the development of the following Dean’s Forum projects:
- Legal Profession Project (2014)
- Early and Integrated Service Delivery Project (Integrated Service Centres) (2014)
- Access to Justice in Legal Education Project (2015)
- Non-Lawyer Legal Service Providers Project (2015)
- Access to Justice in Superior Courts Project (2016)
- Putting the Public First Project (2016)
The Working Group consists of a core group of key partners interested in furthering access to justice initiatives in Saskatchewan. It includes a broad range of participants from the public, government, the bench, bar, academia, legal profession, and related service providers. Working Group members will serve an initial term of three years (January 2016 to January 2019). Click on the links below to to learn more about our members’ organizations.
- Kevin Fenwick, QC (Co-Chair), Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General
- Martin Phillipson (Co-Chair), Dean, College of Law, University of Saskatchewan
- Brea Lowenberger (Coordinator), Access to Justice Coordinator, College of Law, University of Saskatchewan
- Glen Gardner, Assistant Deputy Minister, Justice Innovation Division, Ministry of Justice
- Chief Justice Richards, The Honourable Chief Justice of the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal
- Justice Barrington-Foote, The Honourable Justice of the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench
- Chief Judge Plemel, The Honourable Chief Judge of the Saskatchewan Provincial Court
- Sharon Pratchler, QC, President of the Saskatchewan Branch of the Canadian Bar Association
- Evert van Olst, QC, Member of the Law Foundation of Saskatchewan
- Tom Schonhoffer, QC, Executive Director of the Law Society of Saskatchewan
- Craig Goebel, Chief Executive Officer, Legal Aid Saskatchewan
- Sarah Buhler, Member of Faculty, College of Law, University of Saskatchewan
- Chantelle Johnson, Executive Director, Community Assistance for Saskatoon’s Inner-City (CLASSIC)
- Kara-Dawn Jordan, Executive Director, Pro Bono Law Saskatchewan (PBLS)
- Joel Janow, Executive Director, Public Legal Education Association of Saskatchewan (PLEA)
- Charmaine Panko, Lawyer, Dispute Resolution Sector
- Public representation and Aboriginal representation, Varies with topic area
- Law Student Member, various Dean’s Forum alumni, College of Law, University of Saskatchewan
- Member, Saskatchewan Business Community
- A Young Lawyer, Saskatchewan Legal Community
Other initiatives and networks
- Multi-sector membership;
- Members meet two or more times per year; and
- Members provide advisory/oversight for Dean’s Forum on Dispute Resolution and Access to Justice and the implementation of access to justice initiatives in Saskatchewan.
The Dean’s Forum on Dispute Resolution and Access to Justice (the Dean’s Forum)
- Dean’s Forum attended by a variety of participants that differ each year, including Working Group members, depending on topic areas;
- Dean’s Forum meeting held one or two times per year to discuss two topics per meeting; and
- For each topic, students ground their work in the touchstone national reports, prepare literature reviews, summarize related initiatives that are happening elsewhere, and conduct consultation interviews to orient their work in the Saskatchewan context. Each student group prepares a policy discussion paper summarizing their research and identifying key themes and points for further discussion, and presents the findings during the Dean’s Forum meeting day.
The Saskatchewan Access to Justice Network
- Multi-sector membership;
- Members meet four times per year; and
- Members meet to discuss new initiatives, ideas, and opportunities aimed at improving access to justice in Saskatchewan.
The Saskatchewan Family Justice Sector Access to Justice Network
- Multi-sector membership;
- Members meet approximately four times per year; and
- Members meet to share information about new initiatives, ideas, and opportunities aimed at improving access to justice as it relates to family law in Saskatchewan.
Learn more about the access to justice related working and action groups in other provinces by following the links below.
- The National Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters
- Access to Justice BC (British Columbia)
- TAG – The Action Group on Access to Justice (Ontario)
Has your province formed a working or action group that is not listed here? Contact us!
Learn more about access to justice related research organizations by following the links below.
Stay connected with monthly bite-sized access to justice news through our Saskatchewan Access to Justice Bulletin:
@BreaLowenberger and #ska2j