Canada’s top judge says the Canadian legal system’s high cost is an `urgent’ problem that must be addressed, But lawyer’s recent accusations of money-grubbing among his peers won’t help, chief justice says

Canada's top judge says the Canadian legal system's high cost is an `urgent' problem that must be addressed, But lawyer's recent accusations of money-grubbing among his peers won't help, chief justice says 2

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin has issued a call to action to governments, lawyers and judges to find solutions to the access-to-justice “crisis” imperilling the country’s legal system, which is now too expensive and complicated for the vast majority of Canadians.

In a speech to the Canadian Bar Association yesterday, the country’s top judge declared access to justice “a basic right” for Canadians, like education or health care.

Although McLachlin has spoken out about the problem in the past, she sharpened her remarks yesterday and went further than she has before, citing what she described as an “increasingly urgent situation.”

The justice system risks losing the confidence of the public when “wealthy corporations,” or the poor, who qualify for legal aid, have the means to use the court system, she said, noting that for “middle-class” Canadians, resolving a legal problem of any significance often requires taking out a second mortgage or draining their life savings.

A Toronto Star investigation this year determined the cost of a routine three-day civil trial in Ontario to be about $60,000, more than the median Canadian family income.

“The price of justice should not be so dear,” McLachlin said in a speech to the bar association’s governing council at the opening of a four-day legal conference here.