Thompson Rivers University

Supreme Court Justice (Ret.) visits TRU, calls students to action

February 8, 2017

Retired Supreme Court of Canada Justice Thomas Cromwell and Assistant Professor Katie Sykes. Cromwell visited TRU Law on Feb 7 to speak on access to justice.

“We need an access to justice movement.”

This was the message the Honourable Justice Thomas Cromwell delivered to TRU Law students during his guest lecture on Tuesday, Feb 7.

Cromwell, a retired Supreme Court of Canada judge, is a champion of access to justice and engaging individuals across the country in discussions about it.

During his time with the SCC, Cromwell chaired the National Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters.

“The theme of his career followed a passionate commitment to and constant advocacy for improving access to justice,” said TRU Law Assistant Professor Katie Sykes, who invited Cromwell to Kamloops.

Sykes, also a dedicated advocate of enhancing access to the legal system, recently launched a new course called Apps for Access to Justice. She felt her students would benefit from Justice Cromwell’s insight, although the lecture was open to all students and faculty.

“The access to justice issue is a challenge not just for national committees but for all of us in the legal profession. The access to justice deficit has been described as the legal profession’s equivalent of global warming. It’s an opportunity for us to innovate and adapt,” said Sykes.

In his lecture, titled “Why everyone should care about access to justice”, Cromwell highlighted the need for national dialogue.

“We need to mobilize the thousands of people across the country who care about access to justice,” he said.

He noted that law students have the advantage of not yet being fully integrated into the profession, giving them more flexibility to get involved in service, such as at free legal clinics like the TRU Community Legal Clinic.

Cromwell also outlined the actions being taken at the national level, such as discussions on how to improve justice system metrics, how to be more innovative and how to better engage the public.

“The average person doesn’t know or care about access to justice. We need to change that because they should care and we are the ones to tell them why,” he explained to the audience.

About 100 people attended the lecture, including TRU President and Vice-Chancellor Alan Shaver, who formally introduced the Justice and pointed out that Cromwell’s visit was also symbolic, because establishing TRU Law in 2011 was in part a measure to enhance access to justice in the interior of BC.

Following his talk, Justice Cromwell had a lively conversation and shook hands with several students, who stayed behind hoping to chat with him.

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