The Law Foundation of Ontario, through its Access to Justice Fund, made a national call for applications from nonprofits to develop new approaches in family law. This round of granting is now completed and the Foundation has been pleased to make 26 grants worth over $3M to address the pressing need in this area.
To help advance family law these grants have been funded to:
- Support applied research that provide insights into what is working and where improvements can be made
- Understand the user experience
- Encourage innovation in the way legal services are delivered
- Provide direct supports to members of the public, including self-represented litigants
- Develop public legal education and information that assists the public to take steps to identify, address and resolve their legal disputes
- Use technology to reach people more effectively
- Address intimate partner violence in the context of family law issues
- Meet the needs of diverse communities
- Address the area of child welfare, in particular efforts to respond to the overrepresentation of certain populations.
A full list of the grants is included below. The following is a sample of the breadth and depth of the work, which often involve broad collaborative efforts.
Nonprofits are contributing to the evolution of private bar delivery models through online intake tools, pricing models, or unbundling, as well as encouraging recent law school graduates to practice family law. In this vein, legal incubators were created in Alberta and BC and, in Ontario, Professors Bala and Birnbaum are working with the courts and legal organizations to mobilize and educate lawyers about the use of unbundled family law legal services and legal coaching and undertake an evaluation of their efficacy.
People are being provided with public legal education and information (PLEI) through online tools and in-person help given by frontline workers, such as librarians and workers at gender-based violence organizations. In addition to Community Legal Education Ontario’s important web-based family law resource Steps to Justice, Luke’s Place is developing a comprehensive resource and workshops to help women who have experienced violence navigate the family law process.
Technology is transforming the legal landscape. Technology includes activities such as PLEI websites and the use of Skype to allow lawyers to reach rural areas to provide legal advice. It also includes Professor Bromwich’s research into the uses and opportunities associated with apps to help parents more successfully communicate about custody and access matters.
The Foundation understands the key role of diversity in access to justice. In this family law round of granting, we funded many projects aimed at meeting the public legal information needs of diverse communities and through grantees such as Reach Canada (an organization that serves persons with disabilities), the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, and the Association des juristes d’expression française de l’Ontario (AJEFO, an organization that works with Francophone newcomers).
In addition, OISE in partnership with METRAC, will work on best practices for using restorative justice processes in the child welfare system to remedy the overrepresentation of African, Black, and Caribbean families.
With respect to Indigenous people, the Foundation has supported PLEI efforts as well as the revitalization of Indigenous legal traditions through grants, for example, to the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Union of Ontario Indians.
The Foundation is proud to support the work of nonprofits who are demonstrating ongoing, relentless determination to improve family law – an area of the law that means so much to Ontarians, and influences the views of their justice system and what it can deliver for them.
Family Law Access to Justice Fund granting
Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes
Working together in French: Provincial Symposium on Family Law and Spousal Violence
Aspire Legal Access Initiative
Service scale up project
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs
First Nation laws to protect children and families
Association des juristes d’expression française de l’Ontario
Promoting access to family law justice for immigrants
Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic
Enhanced safety: By increasing efficiency of risk assessments in courts
Canadian Council of Muslim Women
Muslim women’s family law legal rights
Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family
Evaluation of Alberta’s mandatory early intervention case conference pilot project
Carleton University, Department of Law and Legal Studies
Access to justice for facilitating access: helping family law disputant resolve conflicts
Community Legal Education Ontario
French family law content for Steps to Justice
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
Alberta family law legal advice project
Family Service Toronto
Trauma-informed lawyering in family court
King’s University College, Western University
Increasing use of non-traditional legal services for Ontario family cases
Law Society of Nunavut
Access to justice for family violence in Nunavut: a research project and awareness campaign
Luke’s Place Support and Resource Centre for Women and Children
Family court watch: Intersecting legal issues in cases involving violence against women
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education – Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education
African, Caribbean, Black restorative justice – Family Group Conferencing research and development project
Prince Edward Island Parenting Coordination Society
Screening for family violence, abuse and power imbalances: a workshop for parenting coordinators and other dispute resolutions professionals
Pro Bono Quebec
Porte 33 Legal Outreach Clinic and legal information pilot project
Pro Bono Students Canada
Expanding Family Justice through Law Student Pro Bono
REACH Youth Program
Rise Women’s Legal Centre Society
Family law incubator pilot project
Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton
The family learning project
Union of Ontario Indians
Anishinabek Nation Legal Department Child Welfare Awareness Initiative
University of Calgary, Faculty of Law
Accessing justice in domestic violence cases: creating a research portal
University of Windsor, Faculty of Law
Family law at the library: Mobilizing the potential of public libraries to serve self-represented litigants
University of Windsor, Faculty of Law
Self-represented litigants case law database
UVic, Faculty of Law – Access to Justice Centre for Excellence
Out-of-pocket: calculating the real costs of family court
About the Access to Justice Fund
The Law Foundation of Ontario’s Access to Justice Fund (ATJF) is a distinct and permanent fund that makes grants to projects that improve access to justice across the country. The Foundation created the ATJF in 2009 after receiving a cy-près award from Cassano v TD Bank. Courts have continued to approve the Foundation as a fitting and accountable recipient of both fixed and residual cy-près awards given its experience and expertise in granting, broad access to justice mandate, and prudent financial management.