Canadian Forum on Civil Justice receives $1 million for study

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) has awarded the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice, which is housed at York University, a $1 million grant for an in-depth study of the effectiveness of the civil justice system, through the Community-University Research Alliances (CURA) 2010 competition.

The Canadian Forum on Civil Justice, which is now located at York University, moved last year from the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Law and is partnered with Osgoode Hall Law School and the York Centre for Public Policy & Law (YCPPL). It is one of the country’s leading organizations devoted to interdisciplinary research on civil justice.

The study, “The Cost of Justice: Weighing the Costs of Fair and Effective Resolution to Legal Problems,” will attempt to measure what the civil justice system costs, who it serves, wh Trevor Farrow ether it is meeting the needs of users and the price of failing to do so. The study is headed by Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Trevor Farrow (right), director of the Clinical Education Program at Osgoode and chair of the board of the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice.

“There is a significant lack of empirical research on these individual and societal cost questions generally,” said Farrow. “There have been modest attempts internationally and some efforts in Canada, but we very much hope that this will be a groundbreaking study that will really further our collective thinking in this area.”

Researchers will examine whether the cost of achieving resolution is economically and socially warranted by addressing the following questions:

  • How can we better calculate, understand and balance the social value to democratic societies of ensuring an accessible, effective civil justice system against the financial costs of doing so, or the socio-economic costs of failing to provide access?
  • What can be done to effectively prevent disputes, and at what costs and benefits?
  • What methods are there for limiting or eliminating the need for legal services, through consumer protection, licensing, standard-setting and pro-active regulation, or other innovations identified by the research?
  • What can be done to prevent recurring problems for low and middle income Canadians, most especially those who are the most vulnerable?

Osgoode Dean Lorne Sossin described the study as “an extremely ambitious research project that will lead to new knowledge about the costs of justice in Canada and which, in turn, will no doubt drive academic and policy-related thinking here at home and around the world.”

Farrow is joined on the lead research team by co-investigators Diana Lowe, QC, of Alberta Justice and chair of the forum’s research committee, Professor Lesley Jacobs of York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, who was also the inaugural director of YCPPL, and Mary Stratton, who was formerly the forum’s research director.

In addition, there are approximately 50 other co-investigators, collaborators and partners including academics, government departments, law commissions, law reform agencies, law societies, bar associations, judicial associations and other individuals and institutes from around the world.

Community-University Research Alliances (CURA) awards bring postsecondary institutions and community organizations together as equal research partners to jointly develop new knowledge and capabilities, provide research training opportunities and enhance the ability of social sciences and humanities research to build knowledge in areas that affect Canadians and their changing communities. Researchers interested in pursuing partnership research can now apply to SSHRC’s Partnership Development Grants or Partnership Grants funding opportunities.

Further information is available on the SSHRC website.