Bilingual Accès Justice Access centre opening soon in Halifax

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The Association des juristes d’expression française de la Nouvelle-Écosse (AJEFNE) introduced the legal community to the future home of Nova Scotia’s first bilingual access to justice hub, the Accès Justice Access centre.

The new centre is located at 1663 Brunswick Street, across from the Halifax Citadel. The AJEFNE unveiled the new facility on Friday, November 21 in conjunction with its annual meeting and 20th anniversary celebrations. Accès Justice Access is expected to open to the public early in the new year, and will offer personal and confidential services by telephone and in person, in both official languages. 

"Access to justice is a fundamental principle that we all cherish," explains Me Réjean Aucoin, President of the AJEFNE. "With Accèss Justice Access, we will now be able to provide this service to the Acadian and Francophone communities of Nova Scotia, as well as the general public.”

The four-year pilot project will allow the AJEFNE to respond to the legal needs of citizens by creating a venue where they can access free legal information, support and referrals to appropriate resources. The centre will have a director, a coordinator and a full-time lawyer on staff.  
 
The mission statement: Provide a one-stop access to free legal information services to the population of Nova Scotia, particularly to Francophones, while taking into consideration that each individual has the capacity to take charge of their situation and to make choices that are in their own best interest. 

President Tilly Pillay QC, who brought greetings on behalf of the Society, said: “There are many access to justice initiatives underway across the province right now. This one is unique because it provides a service for a particular sector of our population, which has been underserved in the past. This new centre will help fill that gap.”  

The success of similar access to justice centres in other Canadian provinces prompted the AJEFNE to evaluate the different models being used before establishing its own center here in Nova Scotia, said Aucoin.

"Studies have shown that such centers in Québec and British Columbia have contributed to a reduction of time spent by court staff, judges, sheriffs, etc in helping self-represented persons navigate the Court system," he said.

Accèss Justice Access will offer the following services: 

  • legal information to clients, allowing them to understand the reality of the judicial system and helping them to identify their particular needs;
  • orientation of clients to services appropriate for their needs, and referral to other available resources;
  • assistance in filling out legal documents;
  • a library providing information in the field of law;
  • work station equipped with computer, telephone, fax and printer;
  • continuing education and training for the legal community; and
  • informational workshops and reference materials.  

Justice Canada provided a grant of more than $1 million toward the four-year pilot. Within that timeframe, the AJEFNE is expected to seek partners starting in the first year so it will become self-sufficient by the fifth year. The Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia (LISNS) is an obvious place to start, said Aucoin: "We have had ongoing discussions with (them) and hope that our center can add to their services to better serve public. We expect to continue our discussions and sign a partnership agreement in the near future." 

The Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia very much looks forward to collaborating with the new centre, said Heather de Berdt Romilly, Executive Director of LISNS.

“We see this as an opportunity to take access to justice to a new level in Nova Scotia,” she said.

The new centre’s walk-in service will complement LISNS’ Legal Information Line and existing web resources; the two organizations can also explore partnerships on many projects such as pro bono legal clinics and public information sessions. It will all add up to improving public navigation of legal options in Nova Scotia, and will serve a broader range of legal information needs, she said.

The Hon. Michael MacDonald, Chief Justice of Nova Scotia, provided remarks at the reception, while the Hon. Pamela Williams, Chief Judge of the Provincial Court, was guest speaker at a banquet that followed, delivering her remarks exclusively in French.

For more details about the new centre, see http://www.ajefne.ns.ca/communiques.cfm.

Appearing in the accompanying picture: Society President Tilly Pillay QC; New Glasgow lawyer Eric Atkinson; the Hon. Pamela S. Williams, Chief Judge of the Provincial & Family Courts; and Cheticamp lawyer Réjean Aucoin QC, President of the AJEFNE   

Thank you to the NSBS for allowing us to reproduce this article. The original can be found at: http://nsbs.org/bilingual-acces-justice-access-centre-opening-soon-halifax