Legal Service Provision in Northern Canada
Summary of Research in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and the Yukon

8. CIVIL LEGAL AID

8. CIVIL LEGAL AID

The extent to which family and other civil law cases are covered varies between the three jurisdictions (see discussion in subsection 3.2.3). Nonetheless, respondents in all three jurisdictions expressed concerns with respect to the provision of legal services in these areas and identified a significant amount of unmet need as a result.

8.1 Concerns relating to civil legal services provision

A number of concerns were raised with respect to the provision of family and other civil legal services in the three jurisdictions, including the shortage of private family and other civil lawyers, practical limitations on service delivery, the potential for escalation of family and other civil law cases into criminal cases, the shortage of alternatives to the legal system in family and other civil law cases, and the special requirements of family law cases.

8.1.1 Shortage of private family and other civil lawyers

All three jurisdictions reported a severe shortage of private family and other civil law practitioners. This represents a significant limiting factor for the provision of legal services in this area, as both sides of the dispute must be represented and legal services clinics can only represent one of the two.

In the N.W.T. and the Yukon, respondents reported that the lack of private practitioners is exacerbated by the low tariff provided by the LSB and YLSS, respectively, for legal aid cases. The tariff is approximately half of the private rate, which discourages the few existing private practitioners from accepting legal aid cases. In Nunavut, the very small private bar is unable to meet the needs of the population.

8.1.2 Practical limitations on service provision

Respondents from Nunavut identified a number of practical limitations to service provision in the areas of family and other civil law, above and beyond the shortage of private practitioners. For example, finding a secure party to swear an affidavit or serve papers is extremely difficult. The language and cultural barriers that exist with respect to all service provision in Nunavut also add to the difficulties in providing service on sensitive matters such as family law.

8.1.3 Potential for escalation

Respondents in all three jurisdictions felt that family and other civil law cases, where unresolved, could easily escalate into criminal incidents. This issue is discussed in greater detail in Section 10.0.

8.1.4 Shortage of alternatives to the legal system

Respondents in both the Northwest Territories and Nunavut indicated that there is a shortage of alternatives to the legal system that individuals can use in family and other civil law matters. Most commonly mentioned in relation to family and other civil law is the lack of mediation services. This shortage was not specifically identified in the Yukon, but it is likely that a similar situation exists with respect to the availability of alternatives to the legal system.

It should be noted that some respondents also raised concerns with the use of alternatives in family law cases. They felt that the power imbalance that may exist between the man and woman involved might prejudice the outcome of the mediation. These respondents felt that the option of going to court should always be available, even if mediation services become more prevalent.

8.1.5 Special requirements of family law cases

Respondents from all three jurisdictions also reported that there are a number of negative characteristics associated with family law cases that make them less attractive for private practitioners and more time-consuming for legal service providers. For example, family law cases are considered to be protracted and complicated in comparison with criminal law cases; the administrative burden associated with family law cases is greater; and the nature of the cases is more acrimonious and emotional, which is particularly difficult to manage in a small legal community, such as exists in all three jurisdictions.

8.2 Unmet needs in family and other civil law

All three jurisdictions identified significant areas of unmet need in family and other civil law. Table 8.1 summarizes the extent and nature of unmet need in family and other civil law service provision across the three jurisdictions.

Table 8.1 - Unmet Need in Family and Other Civil Law
Jurisdiction Other Civil Law Family Law
Northwest Territories None specified in the source report.
Nunavut
Yukon
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