Stepstojustice.ca aims to provide reliable answers to common legal questions and problems. 'It’s sort of like an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) of law,' says Paul Schabas, the treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada.
By Alyshah Hasham Staff Reporter thestar.com
Wed., Jan. 18, 2017
What can happen if I’m behind in my rent?
Can I sue my former employer in court?
What happens if I call the police about my abusive partner?
What are my rights if the police approach me and ask questions?
A new website called stepstojustice.ca has the answers.
“It’s sort of like an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) of law,” says Paul Schabas, the treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada. “It’s a great resource, especially when you know you are getting answers from reputable institutions in the justice system.”
The website, which launches Wednesday, is the work of CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario/Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario), in conjunction with the Ministry of the Attorney General, the Law Society of Upper Canada, Legal Aid Ontario, the courts and community legal clinics across the province.
“What has happened over the last decade or so is that more and more information about people’s legal rights has become available online,” says Julie Mathews, the executive director of CLEO.
But people who are able to look for information online can be overwhelmed or don’t know which websites to rely on.
“The idea behind Steps to Justice is to provide accurate, easy to understand, practical information to people . . . so they can then figure out what steps to take to deal with their legal problem,” Mathews says.
The site has 369 questions spanning a number of sections, including housing law, employment law and family law, and was developed to address common legal problems using questions lawyers across the province say they are most often asked.
It provides links to additional resources, forms and checklists.
There is also a Live Chat function to help users find the information they are looking for, Mathews says, and community groups will be trained to use the website to help those who are less tech-savvy or don’t have access to the Internet.
New questions and answers will continue to be added, and Mathews says they are working on making the content available both in French through cliquezjustice.ca, and also in other languages.
“There are an increasing number of people representing themselves in family courts and other courts and tribunals. Some of them are self-represented throughout. Some are represented in stages. Some need different levels of help. This is intended to address this growing problem,” she says. “It won’t fix it, but it will help.”
Julie MacFarlane, a law professor at the University of Windsor who researches and develops resources for self-represented litigants, says the website is a step in the right direction.
But it’s only one aspect of the problem of gaining access to justice.
Another is a lack of affordable legal services.
“The legal profession has to figure out how to sell services to ordinary people, or we are not going to solve the problem, even with the most wonderful online information in the world,” she says.
“People still need lawyers. They still need guidance and help.”