Written by Erin Wilcott
In early 2021, the Manitoba Law Foundation (MLF) released a literature review titled “Literature Review on Access to Justice for Family and Civil Matters”. It was prepared to provide a broad background on family and civil access to justice issues in Canada. It also created an inventory of surveys and access to justice metrics initiatives currently measuring Canadian legal needs. The comprehensive review detailed access to justice projects and provided some Manitoba-specific context for many of the most common issues. It is hoped this will help with the implementation of long-term targeted initiatives in Manitoba. Although the review was commissioned to inform the MLF’s development of an access to justice metric, the review is a fantastic resource for anyone wanting to learn more about the state of access to justice in Manitoba.
The survey reviews the prevalence of justiciable family and civil law problems in Canada, noting that nearly half of Canadians will encounter a justiciable issue in this area. These issues frequently cluster into more problems and are disproportionately felt amongst the marginalised and disadvantaged populations. In Manitoba, for example, an over-representation of Indigenous people in correctional and child welfare systems, women experiencing intimate partner violence (Manitoba’s violence against women rate is nearly twice the national rate), disparities between rural/urban services, and lack of French services are uniquely notable issues relevant to the province.
The literature review also identifies the resources available to Manitobans when dealing with legal issues . Of note, the review praised Manitoba’s Legal Aid Plan, as compared to other provinces. According to the writers, Legal Aid Manitoba (LAM) is one of Canada’s most efficient legal aid organisations, operating with both the lowest cost per case and lowest administrative costs, providing more full representation tickets per capita than other provinces, and providing the highest financial eligibility guidelines; however, it must still be mentioned that LAM has stated demand is rising despite “relatively static” funding, as of 2019, which will likely lead to more unmet legal needs.
The literature review examines Manitoba’s access to justice stakeholders, the desired outcomes of access to justice, and the individual/societal impact, in addition to the common barriers affecting access to justice in Canada. Manitoba specific barriers have been noted as well. Finally, the review notes key areas needing to be encompassed in developing access to justice metrics. They include measuring indicators such as: the types of justiciable problems, the type of help sought, barriers/obstacles to justice, and financial cost in a broad sense, to note a few.
At the review’s end, an extensive table of metrics that are currently in use, or suggested to be in use, in Canada offer a highly detailed look at ways we are currently measuring indicators of access to justice. Creating and deploying a Manitoba specific metric will allow for a better coordinated approach towards confronting the access to justice crisis. For Manitoba, where an ad hoc approach to legal service coordination is utilised, a metric that points to strengths and shortcomings of legal services specific to Manitoba could have a significant impact for stakeholders, leading to better service delivery and an increase in the transparency and accountability of the justice system.
To see the review in its entirety, visit https://www.manitobalawfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/Literature-Review-on-Access-to-Justice-for-Family-and-Civil-Matters.pdf.
 Prairie Research Associates, “Literature Review on Access to Justice for Family and Civil Matters”, prepared for the Manitoba Law Foundation (13 January 2021) at 2, online: Manitoba Law Foundation < https://www.manitobalawfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/Literature-Review-on-Access-to-Justice-for-Family-and-Civil-Matters.pdf> [https://perma.cc/2P4L-TC4F] [Lit Review].
 Ibid at 5-8.
 Ibid at 8, 19, 28.
 Ibid at 8-17.
 Ibid at 18, citing Legal Aid Manitoba, “2018/19 annual report: Delivering Access to Justice for Low-Income Manitobans” (2019) online: <https://www.legalaid.mb.ca/wpcontent/WordPress/PDF/Annual_Report_2019_v1.pdf> [https://perma.cc/K7KD-6C9T].
 Lit Review, supra note 1 at 20-29.
 Ibid at 29.
 Ibid at 32.
 Ibid at 19, 31.
The views and opinions expressed in the blogs are the views of their authors, and do not represent the views of the Faculty of Law, or the University of Manitoba. Academic Members of the University of Manitoba are entitled to academic freedom in the context of a respectful working and learning environment.