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International Journal of Law and the Family. Volume 8, Issue 3 (1994), p. 357-373.


This article focuses on recent issues in Canada concerning (in) equality of access to justice in family law matters on the basis of gender. Citing a recent report of the Canadian Bar Association's Task Force on Gender Equality which identified problems, especially in legal aid funding, for family law clients, the paper suggests that the Task Force's conclusions about gender inequality in legally-aided family law matters are closely related to other issues about gender and legal aid: the ongoing controversy about the appropriateness of student legal aid clinics which have adopted policies of representation for battered women, but not for alleged batterers; and a current issue in Ontario about the need for a 'woman only' family law clinic service. The article suggests that these issues need to be examined in light of basic principles about legal aid funding: the reality of 'neutrality' in gender-neutral categories of entitlement; the 'public/ private' dichotomy created by well-funded legal aid services for criminal law matters ('public') and inadequate funding for family law matters ('private'); and the impact of constitutional guarantees of equality in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As well, the paper suggests a need for 'revisioning' access to justice which promotes gender equality. While the paper focuses on recent issues in Canada, it illustrates approaches to problems of gender and access to justice which are international, particularly in the context of downturns in national and international economies.

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