Public Navigator Project
Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia receives recognition from provincial Minister of Justice at House of Assembly
NOVEMBER 3, 2016 | HALIFAX – The Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia was formally recognized today in the House of Assembly by Minister of Justice, Diana Whalen for its innovation in promoting access to justice for Nova Scotians through the Public Navigator Program, the first program of its kind in the country.
“Ensuring Nova Scotians have access to justice is a priority for the province, and it is great to see a community-led organization take a lead role,” says Justice Minister Diana Whalen. “I commend the Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia for establishing a program that matches trained volunteers with people seeking legal information in order to represent themselves in court.”
"We're honoured to have received this recognition by Minister Whalen. Our legal system is complex and many people can benefit from the help provided through the Public Navigator Program. People and communities are impacted by unresolved conflict and this program will help them understand the system and find resolution," says LISNS Executive Director, Heather de Berdt Romilly.
The Public Navigator Program focuses on self-represented litigants considering an action in Small Claims Court or the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, General Division. In particular, the program provides support at the early stages of a litigant's legal journey. "Our goal is that individuals will feel confident and informed," says de Berdt Romilly. "The research is clear that when legal information is provided at an early stage, it will help people build confidence with understanding their options and significantly reduce the need for expensive legal advice."
The Public Navigator Program represents a truly interdisciplinary approach to launching a program of this type. It is and continues to be developed and managed primarily by volunteers. The program currently has 12 volunteers serving as public navigators working out of the Bridgewater Justice Centre. Training for the navigators has been provided by lawyers, a retired law professor, and numerous legal and non-legal reviewers, also voluntarily. A former Dalhousie law student (currently articled clerk at McInnes Cooper), Mario Garcia, was the catalyst for developing the core materials that underpin the program. Free information clinics, advertised on the Courts of Nova Scotia website: www.courts.ns.ca/Self_Reps/self-rep_home.htm, are offered and a digital platform for the service is currently being built in partnership with IT Students through Saint Mary’s Co-Curricular Program while paralegal interns through Eastern College have developed training materials using digital best practices.
Earlier this year the Public Navigator Program received a 2016 Law Day Award for innovation from the Canadian Bar Association NS Branch, and it is being closely followed by governments and legal entities across Canada. The Law Foundation of Ontario provided seed funding for start-up costs which permitted project content to be placed on LISNS website under the newly created section – Representing Yourself. Locally, Eastlink is providing free cell phone support for the six-month pilot which will start early 2017. LISNS is hopeful that a recently requested funding application will permit it to extend the pilot across Nova Scotia.
Read more about Recognition of our Public Navigator Project
For more information, please contact:
Heather de Berdt Romilly
Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia