Canadian Forum on Civil Justice

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From the outset, the objective of the Rural Mobile Law Van project has been to expand service in underserved rural areas, first to rural Wellington County in the summer 2019 pilot project and then in the second three-year phase of the project from 2021 to 2024 to Wellington County and to the adjacent North Halton area as well. The mobile law van operates between May and the end of October. During the fall and winter when Canadian weather becomes too inclement for an outdoor service the winter “law van” moves to various indoor venues in the same towns where the Law Van visits in the summer. The summer van identifies unmet legal need by going out to where people live or spend much of their time, maximizing accessibility mainly by being highly visible in small towns throughout the area. The summer Law Van allows people to come to a high visibility location where it is parked for the day, where they can request free legal help in their own community, at a convenient time, and on their own terms. In this small rural area, the project is solving a big problem that was occurring in rural Wellington County and North Halton. At the same time the Law Van project is developing an approach that is addressing a big problem that has for a long time been a feature of legal aid. The Law Van has, within the confines of a small space and a short time frame, turned back a problem that has existed for legal aid generally since the beginning, a problem that has been becoming more pronounced in legal aid everywhere over time. That problem is the rationing of services to too few people. Although not an explicit objective from the outset, one way to understand what the Law Van is accomplishing is that it represents a way to serve the needs of the many rather than the needs of the few.

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