the Access to Justice centre for excellence

The UVic Access to Justice Centre for Excellence (ACE) was established by the University of Victoria, Faculty of Law late in 2015 in response to the growing concern within the justice community about the problem of diminishing access to justice, and in the belief that there is a unique and important role that the academy can and should play in the resolution of this problem.

The idea for the Centre arose out of the Canadian Bar Association’s Equal Justice report of December, 2013 which proposed that by 2030 three Canadian law schools establish centres of excellence for access to justice research. That report emphasised the paucity of access to justice research and the poor state of metrics and data collection within Canadian civil justice systems and the potential for law schools to help rectify this.  Observing that “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” the CBA drew an explicit link between the system’s lack of metrics and measurement capacity, and the relative ineffectiveness of efforts over the last twenty years to enhance access to civil justice. 

"The effectiveness of the Canadian justice system suffers because we have an extremely limited vocabulary to describe and measure this system and the ways in which it functions ... We have a shared sense that the access to justice “problem” is growing and yet this is only an intuition founded on anecdotes. We are unable to give definitive answers to even the most basic inquiries about barriers to access and we lack the capacity to pull together the fragmented data available to us into anything close to resembling a complete picture of access to justice in Canada ... The absence of shared views on what constitutes access to justice, what to measure, and how to measure it, hampers policy development and decision-making in the legal and judicial institutions central to the proper functioning of our democratic order." (CBA “Access to Justice Metrics: Discussion Paper” April 2013)

ACE seeks to actively engage the law school with the rest of the justice system, in particular with respect to applied research on procedural issues involving access to justice and the delivery of legal services.  Within the law school it will focus on better preparing students for the challenges access to justice presents to practitioners. Outside the school it will focus on research and scholarship that addresses the access to justice issue as experienced by both those who use the system and those who provide the services. 

Our mandate

ACE seeks to provide provincial and national leadership in research and teaching related to access to justice through the following mandate:

  • enhance student understanding, engagement and skills respecting access to justice issues through curriculum and program development,

  • undertake applied research and practical scholarship on access to justice issues,

  • help to build justice system capacity to better exploit metrics and support performance measurement and empirical research, and

  • forge collaborative working relationships with governmental, non-governmental and professional bodies with an interest in enhancing access research.

Given the growing severity of the access problem and the very costly and destructive consequences that flow from unmet legal need in our communities, the Centre seeks to support a justice reform culture that is bold, innovative and open to experimentation. The Centre focuses on activities that UVic is uniquely qualified to undertake. These activities include academic and applied research as well as enhanced student learning and experience.