People have a right to understand the legal processes they are involved in. Case law in Canada states that fair justice is received only when a person can understand what is going on in a court or tribunal and can represent him/herself adequately. Administrative tribunals, like other courts, have to meet the standards set in case law and make sure their clients know what is going on. If this is not done, case law states that individuals are not truly informed and therefore cannot truly exercise their rights. The result may be denial of justice.
In March 2004, the Canadian Judicial Council announced that plain language should be used for instructions in the courtroom. The Chief Justice of Canada made the following comments when these instructions were released:
The instructions will help judges explain legal technicalities in plain language that ordinary people can understand and apply…They will benefit judges, lawyers and jurors, and strengthen the administration of justice in this country.3
An extensive section on case law is in Appendix A.
We—tribunal staff, members, lawyers—cannot solve the literacy problems of clients, witnesses, interveners, and others (called participants from here on) appearing before us. But we are responsible for making sure that people with literacy problems have access to justice.
3. Canadian Judicial Council, “Model Jury Instructions,” press release, March 26, 2004. Return