Numerous provincial and national reports have identified the lack of empirical research and the inability to measure performance as major impediments to enhancing access to justice in Canada. The lack of empirical research capacity impairs policy development, handicaps effective planning and weakens claims for justice funding. While the need for justice metrics is very clear, there is considerable uncertainty about how to move forward and respond to these deficits.
The University of Victoria Access to Justice Centre for Excellence (ACE) is sponsoring a two-part colloquium to explore the need for enhanced access to justice research. The overall goals of the colloquium are to:
- create an active forum for discussion about empirical justice research,
- lay out the foundation for a provincial - and possibly national - research strategy,
- build relationships for future collaboration and partnership on research,
- begin to establish the place and role of ACE within the access to justice research community.
The colloquium will bring together academic and policy researchers and other justice stakeholders to explore research needs and priorities, and to support the development of a coordinated provincial and national access to justice research agenda.
The colloquium will proceed in two stages:
- The first meeting was held on May 13, 2016 at the University of Victoria. BC access to justice leaders and provincial researchers met for one day to explore and better articulate short-term and long-term provincial research needs and goals. Discussion papers and the final report on the proceedings can be found here.
- ACE is exploring ideas for a second forum, possibly in the spring of 2017, to continue this conversation on a national scale. The BC Colloquium report observes that all provinces are suffering from similar data and research deficits and concluded that while the logistics may be daunting, "a coordinated national approach would help to avoid duplication of effort, maximize efficient use of resources and better ensure the ultimate comparability of metrics between jurisdictions."
Much of the discussion at the BC colloquium focused on the possibility of building a "research framework", which was provisionally defined as "a collaborative plan endorsed by a broad spectrum of justice system stakeholders to support more empirical measurement and research, starting with the development of justice metrics and enhanced data quality."
It is hoped that the colloquium will stimulate a discussion and forge partnerships that will eventually result in enhanced justice research capacity across Canada.