Majority of Ontario Residents Believe the Justice System Is Unfair: New Poll by The Access Group on Access to Justice (TAG)

  • 40 per cent believe they do not have equal and fair access to the justice system
  • 62 per cent have little or no confidence that they can afford a lawyer or paralegal
  • AG's Inaugural Access to Justice Week aims to make legal system more open and accessible

Toronto, ON - October 17, 2016 -  The recent Public Perceptions of Access to Justice in Ontario survey conducted by Abacus Data for The Action Group on Access to Justice (TAG) suggests that the majority of Ontarians believe the justice system is unfair. This sentiment exists within the context that more than half of Ontarians (57 per cent) will need to seek legal advice at some point in their lives. Almost half of these people face barriers (45 per cent) when they need to get advice. 
The study also suggests that most Ontarians have fairly negative views on the state of Ontario's justice system. 

The strongest perceptions expressed were that the justice system is:

  • Old fashioned (78 per cent)
  • Intimidating (71 per cent)
  • Confusing (69 per cent)
  • Inefficient (68 per cent)
  • Broken (64 per cent)

To address the negative perceptions of the system and to raise awareness of the tools and services available to assist with legal issues, TAG is hosting the first ever Access to Justice Week from October 17-21 in Toronto. Open to all, the week's events include a session seeking public input on how to improve the legal system and restore faith in it.  Another session will explore how technology can enhance access to justice. The week's keynote speakers include the Hon. Attorney General, Yasir Naqvi and Dr. Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and Professor, McGill University School of Social Work.

“This data confirms what we have been hearing anecdotally. It identifies areas where we should direct our energies in terms of increasing awareness of existing resources and developing new responses that will boost public confidence,” says Sabreena Delhon, Manager, TAG. “Fortunately, we're not starting from scratch, Access to Justice Week brings together a diverse composition of stakeholders to explore the issue from different perspectives. The week is an opportunity to highlight effective in-progress initiatives and advance new collaborations that will produce meaningful change.

Key Access to Justice Priorities for Ontarians

Nearly half of Ontario residents said they face barriers when they do try to access the system with cost being the most common issue:  More than 60 per cent of Ontarians have little to no confidence they can afford a lawyer or paralegal. This sentiment spanned the entire spectrum of household incomes from less than $35k to over $100k with little statistical variation. The research also showed that creating affordable options for those who don't qualify for legal aid was one of the top three priorities by 76 per cent of Ontarians.

“The Law Society is deeply committed to access to justice and views collaboration as a key to finding justice solutions. This is why we established TAG in 2014.  TAG plays an essential role as facilitator, bringing together community, political and institutional partners to work together to address this critical issue.  Access to justice is a key priority for my mandate as Treasurer and I encourage our members to participate in TAG's Access to Justice Week.  We are all part of the solution” said Paul Schabas, Treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada.
The other priorities identified were improvements to the family justice system (58 per cent) and improving access to legal help for vulnerable communities through public legal education and information resources (50 per cent).

Use of Technology or Lack Thereof

Of those who have needed legal help, a plurality of the respondents (46 per cent) sought advice from lawyers and almost one third (32 per cent) turned to friends or family for advice. Surprisingly, only a quarter turned to the internet for information. 

Access to Justice Week will explore how technology can advance inclusive access to justice responses and will examine how other sectors have used technology to help the most marginalized.

“Only 26 per cent of Ontarians say they are using the internet to understand their legal problems. This is a stunning result given that most people, when they have a question about personal matters such as health or education and employment, turn to Google first.” says Delhon. “We need this to change. We need to improve awareness of reliable online resources so people know where to start when they have a legal problem. We also need to ensure that these resources are within reach for those on the wrong side of the digital divide. Coordination with partners within the justice sector and beyond is key to ensuring that people in Ontario know where to turn for trustworthy, accessible information.”

For more Public Perceptions of Access to Justice in Ontario survey results:  

For more information about Access to Justice Week activities, please see:

About the Survey:

Public Perceptions of Access to Justice in Ontario was conducted online with 1,500 Ontarians ages 18 and over from August 22 to 25, 2016. The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.6%, 19 times out of 20.  The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Ontario's population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

About TAGTAG-logo

The Action Group on Access to Justice (TAG) is catalyzing solutions to Ontario's access to justice challenges by facilitating collaboration with institutional, political and community stakeholders. It is funded by the Law Foundation of Ontario with support from the Law Society of Upper Canada.

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For more information, please contact:
Aliya Jiwan-Thawer