"Duty counsel lend a hand and a voice to those desperate for one, and they transform access to justice from a cherished principle to something tangible and real."
Access to justice is the heartbeat of democracy and human rights in Canada yet its pulse seems to be fading as the years go by.
Indigenous people continue to struggle with a justice system that often fails to recognize generational trauma, cultural practices, and systemic racism. The ranks of disadvantaged Canadians continue to grow, as people who encounter the justice system cannot afford a lawyer and have no choice but to go it alone as self-represented individuals. Those who suffer from mental health or addiction issues fall into a justice system that is not well equipped to catch them.
There are bright lights across this country. Lawyers, judges and policy makers who have taken up the cause of access to justice and share a vision of a revitalized justice community that can tackle the multitude of current challenges. Those efforts are essential and laudable. I have no doubt they will pay dividends in the future.
But duty counsel lawyers are different. They are the vanguard for access to justice today. They encounter the entire human spectrum of trials and tribulations every day in our courts. Duty counsel lend a hand and a voice to those desperate for one. They transform access to justice from a cherished principle to something tangible and real.
That’s why every Oct. 27 we celebrate Duty Counsel Day across Canada. Thank you for keeping the heart beating!
Gianpaolo (John) Panusa, KC
President and Chief Executive Officer