Across Canada, technology is disrupting the way justice is delivered. And reform will continue. Indeed, in March of this year, the Liberals tabled a massive piece of legislation to overhaul the Canadian justice system.

Let’s take a look at what has happened over the past couple of years…

Project Description

Canada’s Civil Resolution Tribunal stole headlines back in 2016 when it began operations in British Columbia (BC). The CRT is an online civil tribunal that evolved from two early online dispute resolution (ODR) pilot projects led by BC’s Ministry of Justice. Darin Thompson points out that the defining feature of the CRT is that it placed a high priority on the needs, interests and preferences of the public and tribunal users rather than on more traditional justice stakeholders.

Civil Resolution Tribunal BC’s Online Tribunal

Following its success, the CRT’s jurisdiction will be extended to include motor vehicle personal injury disputes beginning on April 1, 2019. Instead of going back to the drawing board to define how the system will work, Shannon Salter has personally invited community stakeholders to join them for information sessions. This human-centered approach to design is backed up by research coming out of Stanford University.

The interdisciplinary team based at Stanford Law School & is working at the intersection of human-centered design, technology & law to build a new generation of legal products & services.

The CRT has certainly adopted a “culture of usability testing and feedback”. For example, the blog post regarding the Quarterly Update for the Solution Explorer highlighted that the team had just finished their first “Continuous Improvement cycle” and made changes based on the feedback received from both the community at large as well as input from the CRT’s Vice Chair – Small Claims. They spell out what has changed and what they will continue to work on. Much like Monzo’s Transparent Product Roadmap, this approach holds the team accountable and shows where their priorities lie, i.e. with the public and tribunal users.

The innovation does not stop there.

In Quebec, the Plateforme d’Aide au Règlement des Litiges en ligne (PARLe) is for resolution of “low intensity” disputes consumers and retailers. Although an extrajudicial resolution, the platform allows for the smooth transition to the court if no solution or agreement can be reached. All documents uploaded in the platform are automatically transferred with the file history.

But it has not always been smooth sailing in the Canadian e-justice scene. For example, Ontario recently proposed the online Administrative Monetary Penalty (AMP) system for infractions of provincial statutes and municipal by-laws, only to scrap the project soon after. And the Integrated Justice Project (or IJP), which was a shared responsibility project between the civil service and a private-sector contractor, resulted in the private sector partner suing the government for damages, stating the civil service failed to make the decisions needed to achieve success. As Andrew Steele points out in his article “Doing IT right”, which is fairly dated but still relevant, the Achilles heel of IJP was the “lack of ownership of the project and little political oversight of the civil service, an emphasis on process over results, and diffused responsibility”.

In IT projects, this is a common misgiving. So how can we avoid this from occurring in such a sensitive space? Is Margaret Hagan’s hypothesised 7-step approach to designing for better access to justice the answer?