International conference examines access to justice

Featured speakers open and free to all – May 9 to 11, 2018

Participants from across Canada, the United States, the Caribbean and Africa will be gathering at The University of Winnipeg next week to explore barriers many people face in accessing justice. Find a full program of events and abstracts of each lecture here.

Recent trials stemming from the deaths of Tina Fontaine and Colten Bushie raised many questions and sparked a national discussion on this topic. Opening featured speaker, Professor Patricia Barkaskas, University of British Columbia, reflects on “Indigenous Peoples and Canada’s Injustice System” by examining the ongoing impact of Canada’s colonial legal system on Indigenous peoples.

The conference includes over 60 featured speakers, paper presentations and roundtables. Seven featured speakers take an in-depth look at topics related to accessing justice, including decolonization and access to justice; immigrants, refugees and newcomers and access to justice; and access to legal services and legal professionals.

Accessing Justice: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Access, Justice, Law and Order, is organized by the Centre for Interdisciplinary Justice Studies (CIJS) at The University of Winnipeg. CIJS is a law, criminology and justice education and research project committed to public and community education in law and justice issues.

Featured Speakers – Wednesday, May 9 to Friday, May 11, 2018 – OPEN and FREE TO ALL

Eckhardt Gramatté Hall, 3rd Floor Centennial, The University of Winnipeg

Wednesday, May 9, 7:30-8:15 PM

Patricia M. Barkaskas
(University of British Columbia, Instructor & Academic Director, Indigenous Community

Legal Clinic, Peter A. Allard School of Law):

“Indigenous Peoples and Canada’s Injustice System.”

Professor Barkaskas reflects on the continued impact of Canada’s legal system on Indigenous peoples. According to Professor Barkaskas, it is crucial to admit that Canada does not have a justice system when it comes to dealing with Indigenous peoples and communities; rather, we have an “injustice system.” In response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action, legal educators must make our classrooms spaces where we can engage with the work of decolonization.


Thursday, May 10, 9:45-10:30 AM

Justice Colleen Suche
(Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench)

“How did Access to Justice become a Thing in Canada?”

Justice Suche will reflect on the Access to Justice movement in Canada. She brings experience as Chair of the Canadian Superior Courts Judges Association Access to Justice Committee and as President of the Board of Directors of the Legal Help Centre of Winnipeg. The Legal Help Centre is a community based project offering lower income persons help in accessing legal rights through referrals, legal assistance, and support. It is a partnership among Winnipeg’s legal field and three universities (including UWinnipeg), where students in law, social work, conflict resolution, criminal justice, and human rights work with volunteer lawyers to help others.


Thursday, May 10, 12:30-1:15 PM

Liat Ben-Moshe

(University of Toledo, Disability Studies):

“Abolition via Litigation: Between Accessing Rights and Carceral Expansion”

Professor Ben-Moshe draws on the work of disability rights activists who fought for deinstitutionalization and the framework of prison abolition to inquire whether legal reform is a useful tool for decarceration and closure of carceral spaces. She asks whether litigation improved the lives of those incarcerated and reflects on the intended and unintended effects of utilizing the legal arena as a tool of liberation. She points to the limits and drawbacks of employing this strategy in the long road toward justice.


Thursday, May 10, 2:45-3:30 PM

Janet Mosher

(York University, Osgoode Hall Law School)

“Women With Precarious Status: Navigating the Complicated and Hostile Terrain

To Access Justice”

Professor Mosher will address the barriers to access justice for abused immigrant women with precarious legal status in Canada. In some cases, the legal system may be used by abusers against women who try to leave abusive relationships. The legal process can be complicated and hostile to abused immigrant women seeking justice and seeking the right to stay in Canada.


Friday, May 11, 9:00-9:45 AM

Sabreena Delhon

(The Action Group on Access to Justice, Law Society of Ontario)

“Reflections on Engagement and The Action Group on Access to Justice”

In 2015, the Law Society of Upper Canada established The Action Group on Access to Justice (TAG) to facilitate better coordination and collaboration in the development of justice system improvements. Over the past three years, TAG has worked with diverse stakeholders on a wide range of initiatives aimed at advancing culture change, addressing issues of social inequality and galvanizing access to justice as a social movement. This presentation reflects on TAG’s model both conceptually and empirically with highlights from the past three years along with findings from a recent developmental evaluation. The discussion will focus on TAG’s next chapter as an innovative approach to improving access to justice in Ontario.


Friday, May 11, 11:15-12:00 PM

Rebecca L. Sandefur

(University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, Dept. of Sociology and College of Law)

“Civil Justice at the Crossroads”

Professor Sandefur asks us to rethink how we “do” access to justice. She argues that the public’s needs are often poorly served by what traditional legal actors offer. Efforts to expand the public’s access to justice have come to a crossroads. She argues that there is a great opportunity here to better serve the needs of people who seek justice, but it requires developing new strategies for designing services, new strategies for reaching out to potential clients, and new ways of thinking about what access to justice means.


Friday, May 11, 12:45-1:30 PM

Josh Paterson

(Executive Director, British Columbia Civil Liberties Association)
“Access to Justice for Migrants and Refugees in relation to the Immigration Refugee System”

Mr. Paterson will focus on the weaknesses in access to justice for migrants and refugees in relation to the immigration and refugee system as well as for others like permanent residents, visitors and Canadians at the border. People in the refugee and immigration system are uniquely vulnerable to abuse of power and unfairness by the government, and people who experience significant problems at the border are often those who are racialized. Canada must engage in a major overhaul to access to justice in the context of borders and migration.


For more information, contact Dr. Kevin Walby




Twitter: @cijswinnipeg



Diane Poulin, Senior Communications Specialist, The University of Winnipeg

P: 204.988.7135, E:

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