Photo Taken by a Rural & Remote Access to Justice Client
Members of poor and vulnerable groups are particularly prone to legal problems. They experience more legal problems than higher income earners and more secure groups. People’s problems multiply: that is having one kind of legal problem can often lead to other legal social and health related problem. Nearly twenty per cent of Canadians live in rural and remote settings, which adds another layer of challenges and barriers to their ability to connect with supports to help them solve their legal problems, magnifying the impact of the possibility that legal problems will become social and health related problems. Unresolved legal problems adversely affect people’s lives and the public purse.
According to one recent American study, as much as 70%- 90% of legal needs in society go unmet. This statistic is particularly troubling given what we know about the negative impacts of justiciable problems, particularly those that go unresolved. In Canada, over 20% of the population take no meaningful action with respect to their legal problems, and over 65% think that nothing can be done, are uncertain about their rights, do not know what to do, think it will take too much time, cost too much money or are simply afraid.
When this lens of accessibility and social inclusion is applied in the justice context, access to legal services, broadly defined, becomes a greater issue than simply delivering services effectively. Although this is a factor at play, more important is the provision of opportunities for those in rural and remote communities to view themselves as active participants in the larger justice system: for them to feel included in the process of accessing and receiving justice.
Our vision is a world where those living in the rural and remote areas of Ontario experience a sense of inclusion in the justice system, in their communities. At the centre of all of our work is this idea, this vision, that the geographic isolation faced by rural and remote residents can be overcome as much as possible, by an attitude of inclusive justice.