As a Canadian tribunal is moving online for the very first time, the push towards increasing access to justice using technology is as loud as ever.
In July 2016, the British Columbia’s Civil Resolution Tribunal (BCCRT) started hearing small claims cases online. In a system plagued by the constant backlog caused by an ever-growing caseload, it is expected BCCRT will eventually move as many as 15,000 small claims cases each year from the courts to online platforms. And Decisia has been selected to provide access to public decisions resulting from this process.
The results are anticipated to be big: this initiative will save court administrative costs significantly, as well it will quicken the pace of dispute resolutions. The online tribunal will provide around-the-clock access to justice.
BCCRT has been modelled after a study of online courts conducted in the United Kingdom. Richard Susskind, the chair of the Civil Justice Council’s Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) Advisory Group, advocates that ODR systems are proven to: provide greater access to justice through a reduction in counsel costs; limit the time required to resolve a case; provide online access; and decrease costs related to court administration.
In addition to BCCRT, a similar move to increasing access to legal Information can be seen in more tribunals and government agencies making the move to Decisia.
Decisia is an online tool for decision-making bodies – courts, boards tribunals, agencies, associations and other similar institutions – to self-publish their decisions, judgments, opinions, orders, and much more from their own websites. Decisia users include the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), Northwest Territories Courts and the British Columbia Utilities Commission, to name a few. Decisia has even crossed borders, being used by Defensoria Penal Publica in Chile and most recently the Washington Public Employment Relations Commission in the US.
In Canada, it is clear that we have a civil system in need of change. In her forward to the National Advisory Committee on Access to Justice issues in Canada, Rt. Hon. Beverley McLachlin quoted reports stating that, “cost, delays, long trials, complex procedures and other barriers were making it impossible for more and more Canadians to exercise their legal rights”.
BCCRT and Decisia are moves in a direction that will help to remedy this problem, and are indicative of what will soon be an undeniable trend in the legal world: technology as a means to increase access, as well as efficiency and process.