Better Access to Better Justice: The Potential of Procedural Reform

Canadian Bar Review, Vol 100, No. 2

Improving access to justice is often identified as a goal of reforms to legal procedure. What does access to justice mean in this context? This article proposes that “better access” and “better justice” should be understood as distinct but overlapping goals. Access improves when procedural costs confronting litigants are reduced. Justice has three qualities—substantive justice, procedural justice, and public justice—which legal procedure can produce to a greater or lesser degree. Although access and justice are sometimes in tension as goals for procedural reform, they are also harmonious. Better access to better justice is a worthy goal for procedural reformers. Welfarism is introduced in the final part of the article, as a way to focus access to justice reforms and make the necessary tradeoffs. This article’s argument is illustrated by three procedural reform trends—mandatory mediation, smaller-dollar procedure, and inquisitoriality.

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Civil Procedure and Practice in Ontario, Vol. 2

I’m delighted to announce that the updated 2022 edition of Civil Procedure & Practice in Ontario is now live at

We are also grateful to our publishers CanLII, and in particular the team of Sarah Sutherland, Alex Tsang, and Alicia Lazear.  Assistant Editor Sheldon Leung and our Windsor Law editorial team (introduced below) were essential to the success of this project. 

Traffic Studies on Dundas

Dear Councillor Grimes and Councillor Holyday,

Thank you very much for your support of traffic studies for the Dundas Street West intersections with (1) Wimbleton/Old Oak , and (2) Earlington Ave or Old Dundas.   I have shared this good news with the members of the Better Dundas Coalition.  We really appreciate your help in bringing these matters before Council.

On behalf of the Coalition, I am writing to seek some further information about the study process for these two intersections.  I understand that the studies will produce recommendations regarding the suitability of these intersections for traffic lights. 

— Will the traffic studies take into account the interests of pedestrians seeking to cross Dundas Street West, for example through the inclusion of pedestrian movement studies?  Many local residents are concerned about the shortage of safe crossing places on Dundas.  Between the traffic lights at Chestnut Hills Crescent and the Kingsway Mills Shopping Centre, there is a 1.3 kilometre stretch with no traffic lights or crosswalks.  There is also a 650 metre stretch without safe crossing places between Prince Edward Drive and Howland Avenue.    Traffic lights at the intersections named above would cut these distances without safe crossing places roughly in half. 

— Will the traffic studies take into account expected future vehicle traffic, or just current vehicle traffic?   There are multiple applications to construct large residential buildings on the south side of Dundas between Prince Edward and the Humber River.  Further residential intensification seems likely on the north side of this stretch as well.  When these buildings are constructed, they will significantly increase traffic in the area, increasing the need for a traffic light at Earlington.  (If future demand absolutely cannot be considered as part of the traffic study process, it might be better to conduct the study after the new buildings are complete).

— Regarding the interests of pedestrians and cyclists, will the traffic studies take into account the interests of the many people who currently avoid Dundas Street West, but would walk or bike on it if if the City makes it more safe and pleasant to do so?   Or will the studies just count the small number of (very brave) people willing to walk or cycle on Dundas today?

— Will the traffic studies take into account the City’s policies regarding Vision ZeroComplete Streets, and Walking to School?  We believe that installing traffic lights in these locations would be aligned with all of these goals.

— Will the traffic studies include an opportunity for community input? 

— Will the studies evaluate the intersections over multiple days, so as to include (for example) individuals at Wimbleton/Old Oak going to the school and church at the busiest times for those institutions?

— Rebecca Guida kindly provided the service request # for the Old Oak/Wimbleton traffic study request. Your email below indicated that such a request will also be made regarding Earlington/Old Dundas. Could you please provide the service request # for that?

Again, thank you very much for your support. We do hope that the Traffic Study process will take into account the interests of everyone affected by the decisions which the City will make. 

Best wishes,

Noel Semple

A Discussion with Yasir Naqvi

hosted by Noel Semple. October 28, 2020 at 7pm.

Yasir Naqvi is Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship.

Pro-democracy advocates, Yasir’s family emigrated from Pakistan to Canada in 1988. Inspired by his parents, Yasir served as a member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, representing a diverse community in Ottawa between 2007 and 2018. In 2016, he was sworn in as the Attorney General of Ontario. Educated at McMaster University, University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, and Carleton University, Yasir was called to the Bar in Ontario in 2001 and went on to practise international trade and administrative law with major law firms.

Yasir has marked our idea of citizenship in multiple ways. While Attorney General of Ontario, he implemented the All Families Are Equal Act to ensure that all children are treated equally, regardless of how they are conceived, and recognize the legal status of all parents. He also championed new laws to prevent sexual violence and help survivors, increase respect for the rights and cultures of Indigenous peoples, expand access to restorative justice, and promote multiculturalism.

Wednesday, October 28 2020, 7pm.

Click here to join online:

To join by phone: dial 647 374 4685 (Toronto local)

Find your local number:

Meeting ID: 950 405 1646

Passcode: 770001

Dr. Dianne Saxe: Climate changes Everything

hosted by Noel Semple

Monday October 19, 7pm, via Zoom

Dr. Dianne Saxe is one of Canada’s leading environmental lawyers. In 2015 she was appointed Environmental Commissioner of Ontario by Premier Kathleen Wynne. She served in that position until 2019.

Dr. Saxe has been a leading voice calling attention to the climate emergency, and identifying constructive policy options for responding to it.

Please join us for this online conversation hosted by Noel Semple of the Etobicoke-Lakeshore Provincial Liberal Association.

Topics will include carbon pricing, climate-related litigation, and how to discuss climate change with voters.

Monday, October 19 2020, 7pm.

Click here to join online:

To join by phone: dial 647 374 4685 (Toronto local)

Find your local number:

Meeting ID: 950 405 1646

Passcode: 770001

Welfare-Consequentialism: A Vaccine for Populism?

The Political Quarterly, July 2020

            Live press conferences about the coronavirus pandemic have proved remarkably popular in many countries.  To fans of these spectacles, two character types have become familiar.  First, there is the populist leader, personified by Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, and Victor Orban among others. Their performances have hit many of the same notes that they did before the pandemic: denunciations of elites and foreigners, interspersed with tributes to common people and their common sense remedies. However a second type of character is equally prominent on pandemic press conference stages: the public health expert, replete with academic credentials, speaking the language of evidence-based policy.

Continue reading

Good Enough for Government Work? Life-Evaluation and Public Policy

The Journal of Happiness Studies, 2019, Volume 21, 30 pgs.

A life-evaluation question asks a person to quantify his or her overall satisfaction with life, at the time when the question is asked. If the goal of public policy is to make individuals’ lives better, does it follow that maximizing aggregate life-evaluations constitutes policy success? This paper argues that life-evaluation data provides a solid basis for welfare-consequentialist policy-making. This is illustrated by the successful argument for expanding state-funded mental health services in the United Kingdom.

However, life-evaluations do not always provide a complete account of individual welfare. Policy-makers therefore must sometimes inquire into the extent to which individuals’ preferences would be fulfilled, if different policies were to be adopted. This article proposes synthesizing life-evaluationist and preferentist data about individual welfare, as a basis for rational policy-making.

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The British Invasion: Legal Services Regulation Edition Legal Ethics Column, April 10, 2020.

Found online at:

Bringing British things across the pond is a hot Canadian trend. Prince Harry and Megan Markle are now our most famous immigrants. A Canada-U.K. free trade deal has apparently become a post-Brexit priority. And the Downton Abbey movie has raked in hundreds of millions of dollars from my parents and their friends.

While we’re at it, we should copy at least three aspects of legal services regulation as practiced in our erstwhile mother country. The U.K. has swept away many of the outdated and unnecessary restrictions on legal services that we still cling to. The payoff is better access to justice, without any apparent diminution in quality or ethics. Continue reading

Harassment in the Legal Profession: A Few Bad Apples? Legal Ethics Column, February 24, 2020.

Found online at:

Far too many people who work in law firms are subject to harassment by lawyers and paralegals. What, if anything, should our law societies do about this? Much depends on whether one sees the problem as “bad apples,” or as symptomatic of problems with the entire “barrel” which is the legal profession in Canada.

“Harassment” is defined by the Ontario Human Rights Code as “a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.” Harassment is often (but not always) sexual in nature. It is distinct from discrimination, but is often based on prohibited grounds of discrimination such as gender, race, or disability. Harassment is distinct from assault (which requires touching), but in many cases the harassing course of conduct includes assault.

Once you start paying attention, evidence of harassment in law firms is not hard to find. Every month, approximately 15 complaints are made to the Law Society of Ontario’s Discrimination and Harassment Counsel (DHC) , regarding alleged discrimination or harassment by a member of the legal profession. Sexual harassment is the most common complaint to the DHC, representing a quarter of the complaints. Racial harassment is also commonly recorded in this data. In a recent Globe & Mail article, Jocelyn Downie and Elaine Craig remind readers that Gerald Regan, a famous lawyer and former Premier of Nova Scotia, has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by more than 35 women. His success seems to suggest that this conduct is still taken lightly in many quarters. Continue reading

Dispatches From the Front Lines of Canadian Legal Ethics Legal Ethics Column, December 16, 2019.

Found online at:

On October 25 & 26, Windsor Law proudly hosted the 2019 conference of the Canadian Association for Legal Ethics. The presentations touched on many of the most important issues confronting the legal profession today. Check out the brief summaries below to stay up to date. Continue reading