A few weeks ago I posted a blog about the Unrepresented – those who can’t afford a lawyer and don’t qualify for legal aid. A few days ago I noticed an article in the Star about an initiative called justicenet that seeks to address this very problem. Through the efforts of Heidi Mottahedin, an internet-based service has been launched that connects people in need with socially conscious lawyers who are willing to work at a reduced rate.
I think that journalist Carol Goar is absolutely right when she suggests that this effort will be insufficient to deal with the enormous structural problem facing our legal system; however, Heidi Mottahedin deserves high praise for her efforts, as do the lawyers who are sacrificing income to be a part of justicenet.
Meanwhile, Legal Aid Ontario is planning to open a Family Law Services Centre in North York. No doubt this will be similar to the Family Law Information Centre at the London Superior Court, where those in need can get information about the law, shelters, counseling and mediation services in the area etc..
Family Law is an area where the lack of affordable legal help is particularly acute, and although the legal assistance provided at these service centres is limited, it is quite helpful nonetheless. A brief consultation will ensure that matters that don’t belong in court are redirected while matters that do belong in court are refined to exclude extraneous issues. The result is a more streamlined court system. At a lecture at Western Law a few weeks ago, Justice Harper expressed his desire for every court to have a Family Law Information Centre. He left me with the impression that he is working behind the scenes to try to make it happen.
Apparently there are people in the legal community doing the hard work to bring about change. If enough people step up to the plate, who knows? Maybe the problem of the unrepresented can be wrestled to the ground without resorting to harsher measures.