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Marginalized Manitoba groups face barriers to justice: report

A Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives study found that certain groups are disproportionately represented in their inability to access justice.

Justice Starts Here: A One-Stop Shop Approach for Achieving Greater Justice in Manitoba written for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Public Interest Law Centre looks at access to justice in Manitoba.

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Justice Starts Here: A One-Stop Shop Approach for Achieving Greater Justice in Manitoba written for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Public Interest Law Centre looks at access to justice in Manitoba.

The scales of justice are unbalanced in Manitoba, according to a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

The CCPA and Public Interest Law Centre study, entitled "Justice Starts Here: A One-Stop Shop Approach for Achieving Greater Justice in Manitoba," found that certain groups in the province lack equal access to justice.

While not mutually exclusive factors, the report found the following groups are disproportionately represented in their inability to access justice: Indigenous people, newcomers, people living in rural or remote parts of Manitoba, people living in poverty, people with mental or physical health conditions or disabilities, people with precarious employment, and female survivors of family violence.

“We thought it was really important to have a Manitoba-specific perspective because there has been a lot of ongoing conversation around access to justice, in our province as well as at a national level,” said Allison Fenske, who penned the report alongside Beverly Froese.

She added that Manitoba’s population distribution is one source of unequal access.

“Unlike other provinces, you have over half of the province living within the city of Winnipeg, and that means that there’s some fairly specific and unique challenges faced by those living in remote northern or First Nation communities,” Fenske said.

“In Winnipeg, we may talk about gaps in services, but in other places we don’t talk about gaps because there aren’t any services.”

Those communities may not have a permanent home and depend on circuit courts, she said.

The report is a result of more than two years of research and includes input from community groups, frontline workers, and people who have tried to access the justice system.

“We specifically asked people, ‘What does access to justice mean to you?’ and for many people the response was it means access to legal representation,” said Fenske. The report also looked at the availability, accessibility, acceptability, and adequacy of that representation.

She said the report does not take an overly prescriptive tone, but recommends a shift toward needs-based services and better coordination of services.

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