Canadian Forum on Civil Justice

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Emerging international research demonstrates that high economic and social costs accrue when individuals cannot access timely and effective resolutions to legal problems. Canadian research also shows that most people lack knowledge and understanding of legal rights, legal processes and services, and experience significant barriers when attempting to seek legal information and assistance. Within the Canadian justice community there is strong interest in engaging all relevant stakeholders in collaborative processes of research and policy development. This paper discusses how community-based mapping research can facilitate such engagement in compiling evidence that informs the development of legal processes and services that are more accessible, effective, efficient and fair. Community-based mapping research goes beyond recording details of geographical dispersement to include multiple perspectives on service accessibility, effectiveness and gaps within the context of local/regional social networks and relationships. Examples of Canadian projects are utilized to illustrate the application of this approach and its power to build both evidence and stakeholder networks. At the same time, the challenges of meeting all of the collaborative engagement and action for change goals are recognized.

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