Legal Ease, June 26
The Law Society
The practice of law in Nunavut is governed by the Law Society of Nunavut. The Law Society regulates lawyers and makes sure, for example, that only people licensed to practice law actually practice law.
he Law Society also makes sure lawyers stay current on the law and punishes lawyers who somehow abuse their position.
The Law Society’s mandate says it has the “responsibility to ensure that the people of Nunavut are served by lawyers who meet high standards of competence, learning and professional conduct; and, to uphold the independence, integrity and honour of the legal profession.”
All these aspects of the Law Society’s work are well known; but many in the general public are not aware that the Law Society also has a major role in making sure there is a genuine access to justice for all people in Nunavut.
Nunavut has special challenges in making sure everyone has access to justice.
The Territory is vast, travel costs high, the number of lawyers and judges available limited and there are economic, cultural and linguistic barriers.
In Ottawa, for example, there are lots of lawyers and plenty of legal options—in Pond Inlet the options are far more limited and a lot of work has to be done to make sure people get proper legal service.
That said, the Law Society has made some major gains in trying to ensure that the public has access to legal information (this column being a part of that effort) and legal assistance.
For example, while limited to Iqaluit so far, open access public legal information kiosks exist to allow people to find legal information and help.
Pamphlets, in all official languages, explaining legal basics, are available in every community. The Legal Services Board also has taken significant and real steps to make sure people have a place to turn to when facing legal issues.
The Legal Services Board has regional legal aid clinics located in Cambridge Bay (Kitikmeot Law Centre), Rankin Inlet (Kivalliq Legal Services), and Iqaluit (Maliiganik Tukisiiniakvik). You can get their telephone numbers in the phone book or online.
More generally, if you are arrested, the RCMP will get you a lawyer to speak with by telephone at any time of the day. If you want, you can also call a Legal Services Board law line for Family Law at 1-866-606-9400 or for Civil and Poverty Law at 1-866-677-4726.
The issue of access to justice is not limited to Nunavut. It is a national problem.
The National Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters has put together an online quiz that will test your legal knowledge, help the National Action Committee figure out what issues need special attention and take you to legal resources.
The quiz is short and fun. I encourage you to test your legal knowledge—you will learn something for sure! You can find the quiz here.
James Morton is a lawyer practicing in Nunavut with offices in Iqaluit. The comments here are intended as general legal information and not as specific legal advice.