Quebec hopes to make justice more accessible
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
- Organization: Montreal Gazette
Building three new community justice centres
QUEBEC - Justice Minister Kathleen Weil has announced a pilot project, to make justice more accessible.
Three Community Justice Centres will be created in Quebec City, Sherbrooke and Rimouski this year, Weil said yesterday, and the intention is to have one "in every community across Quebec."
The minister said two-thirds of Quebecers consider the justice system a labyrinth and this is creating a "crisis of confidence" in the system.
The Community Justice Centres - which would be open in the evenings as well, staffed by volunteer lawyers and notaries, would offer "one-stop" access to justice.
Weil said the idea is to demystify the justice system by informing people of their options, telling them, for instance, that mediation could save them time and money.
The minister said she is happy that lawyers, notaries ,judges and law professors support the approach, which is already available in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.
Gérald R. Tremblay, batonier of the Quebec Bar, said lawyers are already doing a lot of pro bono - without charge - work to make the justice system work better.
The new centres would expand on that, he said, noting that at present ordinary citizens get lost in the justice system.
"Where do I go?" is the question most asked, Tremblay said, and the community justice centres aim to give them answers.
Tremblay also admitted that the centres could help lawyers improve their reputations.
He said people sometimes find themselves in legal battles and only realize this after spending, say, $20,000 in legal fees, "when simple advise earlier on would have avoided the expense."
"Lawyers should not be seen as preventing things from happening but also as a means to a solution," Tremblay said.