Tribunals for Access to Justice in Canada

Tribunals have great potential to improve access to justice in Canada, and the goal of this article is to better understand this potential. It begins by defining “tribunals” and “access to justice,” the key concepts of this article. Because tribunals and trial courts are functional alternatives for the resolution of many legal disputes, the article first reviews the merits of triallevel courts in this regard. It then turns to tribunals, reviewing some objective evidence of tribunal excellence in creating access to justice.

Four key attributes of tribunals make them advantageous alternatives to trial-level courts for the accessible and just resolution of many types of legal dispute. First, tribunals are specialized instead of having general jurisdiction. Second, tribunals apply teamwork to dispute-resolution, instead of assigning all responsibility to individual adjudicators. Third, healthy forms of accountability are easier to establish in tribunals than they are in courts. This includes accountability of individual members to the tribunal and accountability of the tribunal to the legislature that created it. Finally, tribunals can be designed for maximal performance in creating access to justice, by contrast to courts which, for good reasons, resist design or reform efforts coming from outside themselves.

The final Part of the article argues that tribunals can advance access to justice not only by taking on dispute-resolution work that courts would otherwise do, but also by offering authoritative legal vindication of rights that would otherwise be abandoned, or resolved in a completely privatized way. The tribunal promise of accessible adjudication can also be expected to improve the quality of settlements, in terms of upholding parties’ substantive legal rights.

Full text (draft) : Tribunals for Access to Justice in Canada

Tribunals in Canada: A Coming of Age

Forthcoming, Canadian Journal of Administrative Law and Practice

Tribunals constitute a vitally important part of Canada’s justice system, but their place in the Canadian state is fragile and their essential function is misunderstood. This article explains the need for pro-functional tribunal law, which would position tribunals to consistently deliver on their potential. Differentiating tribunals dedicated to resolving legal disputes from non-tribunal agencies that do other work is the key. Differentiation would advance goals related to specialization, the separation of powers, and democracy in Canada. It would allow tribunals to escape the taint of partiality to government. It would also set the stage for a professionalization and depoliticization of tribunal appointment practices, securing tribunals and their users from the type of dysfunction that has recently plagued Ontario’s tribunals. The final Part of the paper argues that the Canada’s legislatures, rather than its appellate courts, are the most promising venue for the adoption of pro-functional tribunal law.

Strong Finish!

Dear friends, 

Hope you are well and enjoying the lovely weather.   To finish off the campaign strong, the Matlow HQ have asked us to focus on the condo towers at 625, 627, 714, 716 The West Mall.  

Would you have any time before Monday to flyer a few floors in these buildings?  Whether you knock on the doors or not is up to you — at this stage it would be terrific to just get the flyer in front of as many people as possible.

I’ll be working in these buildings starting 530pm tomorrow so feel free to meet me in the guest parking lot behind 714 The West Mall.  I can also offer rides!

Finally, as you know Monday is election day and getting out the vote is crucial.  We will be hosting a home centre for Josh at 110 Prennan.  Here is the signup if you can help :

June 15 Canvass for Josh Matlow

Dear friends, on Thurs evening I’ll be knocking doors for our candidate of choice in 551 The West Mall, a middle-income condo building just south of Rathburn. I hope you will join me! Let’s meet in the visitor parking lot at the rear of 551 at 545pm. I’ll have plenty of flyers.

Why This Building?

551 is a tower so we can hit lots of doors quickly. Also it will have a polling station in the lobby, which will make it much easier for residents to vote.

Why Canvass?
Josh would be a terrific mayor, but canvassing isn’t only about helping him win. Canvassing is a chance to get people interested in democracy and learn about our fellow human beings from different walks of life. Municipal election turnout was only 29.7% last October which is really troubling.
I count it a win to have a talk that turns a non-voter into a voter, perhaps for life. I treasure the conversations where someone tells me what has them excited or even angry. You learn a lot of interesting things at the door! And so many people are isolated. Hearing them, when they are willing to talk, creates a crucial human connection. All of this to say that, no matter what the polls say and no matter who ends up winning, I find canvassing is always worthwhile!

June 8 Josh Matlow Canvass

Dear friends, Would you like to join me on a canvass for Josh Matlow on Thurs evening?

I’m planning on heading to what some call “Eatonville Centre” — East Mall and Bloor.

Your can choose between an older condo (362 The East Mall), new condos / townhouses (Valhalla Inn Road), or if you prefer the single family homes on the streets just east of East Mall.

A few of Josh’s commitments that might resonate in this area:

  • This is close to the Eatonville library which will benefit from Josh’s platform commitment to summer Sunday library openings. (I have found this platform piece resonates at the door, at least for me, as I can connect it to my family experience. My daughter Madeleine loves going to this library but hates that it’s closed on the weekends all July and August!)
  • Another option is to talk about the Traffic Safety platform vis-a-vis East Mall and Burnhamthorpe which are both busy and somewhat dangerous arterials
  • Many folks in this area, especially in the towers, are dependent on the East Mall bus. Josh will restore bus service from recent cuts:

Meeting Place

530pm at Bloorlea School Parking Lot, Northeast corner of Bloor and The East Mall

OR text me any time at 416 899 5203 and we can meet up


we will be using the FieldEdge app to record data.
If you have a phone and are comfortable using it for this purpose please download at

You can register by entering when prompted

HOWEVER if you prefer you can record data on paper or your phone or text it to me.

June 1 Josh Matlow Canvass

Looks like a beautiful sunny evening and HQ has asked us to canvass houses on Dundas Street between Islington and Royal York.

I’m especially excited about this one as I’ve done some work on that stretch already, helping to convince the city to install a traffic light at the highly problematic intersection of Dundas and Wimbleton.

For dangerous and high-volume streets like Dundas, Josh has a terrific traffic safety plan that I’m hoping we can tell people about:


Parking lot of Montgomery’s Tavern (southeast corner of Islington and Dundas) at 530pm on Thursday June 1st.

Let me know if you can make it!


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

Long Live the Law Practice Program

I am struggling to understand the justification for the recent committee recommendation to end the Law Practice Program. The LPP is the Law Society’s alternative licensing program predominantly used by candidates unable to find articling positions.

The committee‘s central rationale seems to be that the LPP is “perceived as second tier.” They acknowledge that (i) “there is no evidence to suggest that the LPP is in fact second-tier” and (ii) the LPP is “of very high quality and may, in fact, excel over articling in a number of areas” in terms of preparing candidates for practice (para 59).

A regulator ending the LPP because it’s perceived as second tier to articling is like a regulator banning Chevrolets because they are perceived as second tier to Cadillacs. A regulator which does so must, at very least, have a realistic plan to ensure that everyone will be able to drive a Cadillac/get an articling position.  I can’t find any such plan in this Report. Continue reading

Three Routes to Justice for All

Lawyers Weekly, October 30, 2015.

Full text:

The LSUC needs to expand the scope of paralegals, online information and ABS.

A statutory mandate was given to the Law Society of Upper Canada almost ten years ago: “Act so as to facilitate access to justice for the people of Ontario.” How effectively has it been carried out?

Undeniably, access to justice is now taken seriously at Osgoode Hall. Recent initiatives such as the treasurer’s action group on access to justice are encouraging to those who want all Ontarians to enjoy the law’s benefits.

While great strides have been made, a great distance remains to be travelled. Three policy areas — paralegal practice, online information, and alternative business structures — illustrate both how far the law society has come and how far it must still go.
Continue reading