On June 12, 2019 the BC Provincial Court joined 50 other organizations committed to improving access to justice in BC as they formally endorsed the Access to Justice Triple Aim – an aspirational goal formulated by Access to Justice BC (A2JBC).
What is A2JBC? What does its Triple Aim involve? And why does the Court endorse it? This eNews answers those questions.
What is Access to Justice BC?
The seeds for A2JBC were planted in 2008, when former Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin set up a national committee to address the access to justice crisis in Canada’s civil and family justice system. At the same time, she called on the provinces and territories across Canada to move access to justice initiatives from words to action.
A2JBC was BC’s response to this call for action. Chaired by the BC Court of Appeal’s Chief Justice Robert Bauman, it’s a a network of people and organizations connecting with each other to realize a common vision - access to family and civil justice for all British Columbians.
Provincial Court Chief Judge Melissa Gillespie is a member of A2JBC’s Leadership Group and Steering Committee, as was her predecessor, former Chief Judge Thomas Crabtree.
At meetings in 2015, A2JBC set three priorities:
What is the Access to Justice Triple Aim?
The Triple Aim was adopted by the A2JBC Leadership Group as part of a Framework for Action in 2016. It is one goal with three measurable elements:
Triple Aim is a concept borrowed from the healthcare sector, where it constitutes a framework developed to “optimize” the performance of the healthcare system.
When adapted to the justice system, the first element involves considering how the family justice system, for example, is working for British Columbians as a whole. It also includes consideration of particular access to justice problems for groups like children and youth or people with disabilities.
The second element emphasizes the importance of focusing on users’ experience when designing aspects of the justice system. It calls for solutions based on input from users, not just from legal professionals.
The third element involves analysis of whether benefits achieved are proportional to costs, taking into account the costs to other sectors when people’s legal needs are not met. For example, we know that unresolved legal issues create stress for people, and that this puts pressure on the health system and increases its costs.
51 organizations endorsed the A2J Triple Aim on June 12, 2019
Endorsement of the Triple Aim
With its long-standing commitment to geographical accessibility and its efforts to accommodate self-represented litigants, the Provincial Court has been an A2J leader in BC. Its commitment to access to justice is expressed in its mission statement, vision and goals. Even before A2JBC was formed the Court had begun to incorporate aspects of its Framework for Action – collaboration, attention to users’ needs, experimenting, and relying on evidence of what works – in its reform initiatives.
Overall, the goal of the Triple Aim is to encourage a “user centric” perspective. This perspective encourages the justice system to shift its culture away from a provider-centred approach that places courts and the justice system at the centre of the issue. Instead it encourages a user-centred approach to defining and resolving the issues that cause people to use the justice system.
The Provincial Court is known for its willingness to consider and where appropriate, undertake new processes to benefit litigants. For example, the Court has responded to the needs of Indigenous offenders and mentally disordered and substance addicted offenders by establishing several specialized courts. It was the first court in Canada to adopt guidelines for support persons in family and civil trials. Endorsing Triple Aim reaffirms our willingness to consider new and innovative processes.
However, the Court has a legal and constitutional duty to maintain judicial independence. Every Canadian has the right to have his or her legal issues decided by fair and impartial judges who are free to decide each case on its own merits, without interference or influence of any kind from any source. Because of this, the Court’s endorsement of the Triple Aim cannot and does not bind the Court or its judges and judicial justices to act in any particular way.
Moreover, the BC Provincial Court does not endorse or otherwise commit to use the A2J Measurement Framework, a measurement tool adopted by A2JBC, to measure the Provincial Court’s access to justice initiatives or other work that it does. This is in no way a criticism of that framework, but rather a reflection of the significant work that the Provincial Court has been doing for many years in reporting to the public about the work and innovations of the court. Endorsing the Triple Aim does not compel the Court to use the measurement framework, nor does it otherwise interfere with judicial independence.
By endorsing the Triple Aim, the Provincial Court is expressing its long-standing commitment to enhance meaningful access to justice. The Access to Justice Triple Aim is a worthy aspirational goal that the Court will continue to work towards in keeping with its mandate, mission, vision, and goals.