Development of An Access to Justice Index for Federal Administrative Bodies

Executive summary


The Department of Justice (DOJ) initiated the Access to Justice Index for Federal Administrative Bodies project in the late spring of 2014 with the goal of developing and piloting a quantitative measurement (the “Index”) of access to justice in the context of Canadian administrative law. The Index provides the administrative body a score, out of 100, which describes how well it is doing to ensure access to justice for its users/clients/parties.

This pilot project is an adaptation of the work introduced by the US National Center for Access to Justice,Footnote 1 the Access to Civil Justice Index (2014). In developing and piloting the “Index”, DOJ and federal administrative bodies worked collaboratively to address a gap in terms of measuring access initiatives in the administrative justice context. The Index will provide innovative and creative base line information for the participating administrative bodies, as well as identify good practices that other federal administrative bodies could adopt.Footnote 2

The purpose of the Index is to:

  1. fill a gap in terms of measuring access to administrative justice at the federal level in Canada;
  2. provide baseline information on a few key indicators for the participating administrative bodies so that they might track progress over time;
  3. inspire administrative bodies to reach further and achieve even greater access to justice for parties; and,
  4. identify good practices for other federal administrative bodies to adopt.Footnote 3

This report focuses on the concepts underlying the Index and how it was developed. This report does not present the results from the responses to the questionnaire.Footnote 4


To develop the Index, researchers selected four categories based on a review of the access to justice literature: 

  1. Access to the Administrative Body (including the sub-categories of Physical Access and Access through Technology);
  2. Processes (including Procedural justice, Representation, Interpersonal and Informational aspects);
  3. Costs (including Service Charges and Intangible Costs); and
  4. Outcomes (including Distributive, Functional and Transparency elements).

Researchers developed questions from the users’ perspective. The questions required a yes/no answer. Each positive response carried a weight of 10, 5 or 1 based on the importance of the issue to the overall category from the perspective of the user/client/party. Negative responses received a score of zero. The participating administrative bodies responded to the questionnaire and were also able to provide comments. A score for each category was calculated by dividing the total weighted score earned by the total weighted score possible and multiplying by 100. The composite, or overall, score for each administrative body was calculated as an average of the four category index scores. 

The higher the score, the better the administrative body is doing on facilitating access to justice for users/clients/parties. A perfect score is 100. For this pilot project, no “pass” or “fail” score was identified; nor was a minimum score identified on any given sub-category.

The report discusses the four categories and their sub-categories and the questions that comprise each. Weights for each question are also provided.


Results from the pilot test show that the participating federal administrative bodies are excelling in some areas of access to justice, but there is room for improvement.Footnote 5 These are areas that can be examined further.

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