Alberta has two law schools, at the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta . Both have undertaken initiatives to promote access to justice.
Please visit the University of Calgary’s blog, ABLAWG, to read about access-to-justice related research published on-line by that law schools Faculty. https://ablawg.ca/category/access-to-justice/
The University of Alberta, Faculty of Law has been training Alberta lawyers since it was established in 1912. The Faculty’s course offerings have evolved over the past century to reflect the changing realities facing its graduates, including the growing concern about access to justice. Two course offerings, spearheaded by Faculty member Catherine Bell, provide students with the opportunity to gain valuable experience working with justice sector organizations and actors, while at the same time developing a critical understanding of the social, economic, and cultural context of the law and promoting better access to justice.
LOW INCOME INDIVIDUALS AND THE LAW CLINIC
Developed by Professer Bell, Katherine Weaver (then VP Policy, Research & Stakeholder Relations Legal Aid Alberta) and Debbie Klein (Executive Director of the Edmonton Community Legal Centre), this course links the study of law and policy with experiential learning. The goal is not only to give students an opportunity to develop some of the skills necessary in the practice of law, particularly as it applies to low income individuals and other marginalized groups, but also to help them identify other roles lawyers can play – such as working for a non-profit, in policy development or law reform. As part of their training, students work in a variety of clinical settings with Legal Aid Alberta or with the Edmonton Community Legal Centre. In addition they attend a pre-clinical orientation and monthly meetings coordinated by Professor Bell in the fall and a weekly seminar taught by Katherine Weaver in the winter. The combination of an internship and a seminar allows students to connect case work, advocacy, and other forms of experiential learning with substantive and theoretical knowledge of legal issues faced by low income individuals and start to develop a critical understanding of the social, economic, and cultural context of the law.
ABORIGINAL JUSTICE EXTERNSHIP AND SEMINAR ON GLADUE SENTENCING PRINCIPLES
When Indigenous individuals are being sentenced in the criminal justice system, the judge must think about their experiences as an Indigenous person and consider options other than jail, these are known as the Gladue sentencing principles. To assist judges in applying the Gladue sentencing principles, the accused may have a Gladue Report prepared. A Gladue Report aims to present “a holistic picture of the Aboriginal person by including information about their background and the specific circumstances that brought them before the court.”
In 2013 a Gladue Workshop Committee was initiated by members of the Provincial and Queen’s Bench Courts of Alberta in Edmonton in response to concern about the insufficiency of information being provided to the Court to address Gladue factors in sentencing, including consideration of appropriate restorative non-custodial sentencing measures. More recently, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada noted that overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in the criminal justice system and litigation involving residential school survivors reveal the need for training lawyers in these and other areas. In response, Professor Bell worked in collaboration with representatives from the Edmonton legal community, including lawyers, judges, students, Indigenous criminal justice workers, Elders, faculty members, sessional instructors and others to create educational initiatives relating to competent legal representation of Indigenous peoples.
Offered in partnership with the Government of Alberta (Alberta Justice and Solicitor General) this course was designed by Professor Bell, defence lawyer Nicole Stewart, and Randy Sloan (Manager of Aboriginal and Business Relations, Alberta Justice and the Solicitor General) to provide students with legal, social, historical, and contemporary contexts for understanding Gladue principles in sentencing including the relevance of individual, familial and historic factors; the intergenerational impact of colonization; the recent report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada; and the relationship of Gladue to restorative justice and Indigenous legal traditions. Students participate in pre-externship training, attend bi- weekly seminars and complete 20-30 hours assisting Gladue report writers. Support and training for the course is provided by various actors in the judicial system, including Indigenous elders, members of the judiciary, Yellowhead Tribal Community Corrections and Native Counselling Services of Alberta.
 See Gladue Rights at Bail and Sentencing https://lss.bc.ca/resources/pdfs/pubs/Gladue-Rights-at-Bail-and-Sentencing-eng.pdf
 See Gladue Report Guide at 15 https://lss.bc.ca/resources/pdfs/pubs/Gladue-Report-Guide-eng.pdf
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