Access to Social Justice symposium will explore social justice issues in Calgary

1 avril 2016
Auteur(s) :
Natalie Dawes; Alison Abel

Law and Social Work faculties aim to develop policies and action plans that will make real improvements in access to social justice. Top speakers include Thomas Cromwell, a Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, and more—read on!

As part of Congress 2016 exciting line-up of events, the University of Calgary will host six Interdisciplinary symposia to exhibit the university’s most compelling and leading-edge thinking and research. This article is part of a six-part series showcasing each event, all of which are open to Congress attendees and the general public.

On May 28, the Faculties of Law and Social Work will bring together scholars, community members and government representatives to explore issues around social justice in Calgary. The Access to Social Justice symposium Building A2SJ: An interdisciplinary conversation about problems and solutions will engage participants to consider approaches to serving individuals for whom a need for legal and other services is complicated by factors such as poverty, homelessness, addictions, mental health challenges and/or refugee status.

We interviewed John-Paul Boyd, executive director of the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family and one of the key symposium organizers, to learn more about the day.

Q. What are the key issues around access to social justice?

A. Key issues around access to social justice include access to affordable housing, quality health care and employment regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, ability or family status. These have, in some ways, always been critical social justice issues, however the current discussions in Alberta about gay-straight alliances in schools, the rights of trans people and the arrival of refugees from Syria, coupled with the current economic crisis and the emergence of a certain degree of xenophobia and intolerance, have sharpened the point somewhat and brought a new level of urgency to his dialogue.

Q. Who should attend the symposium?

A. The day is for anyone involved in the delivery of social and legal services, academics involved in the law and social sciences, politicians and policy makers, community advocates and change makers, and anyone with an interest in applied social justice.

Q. Who are some of the key speakers?

A. We’re really excited about the roster of speakers we’ve been able to bring together. Key speakers include: Thomas Cromwell, a Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada who is also involved in the work of the national action committee on access to justice; Steph Guthrie, feminist advocate for gender, culture and technology; and, Robin Steinberg of the Bronx Defenders, an innovative, holistic legal aid office in New York providing criminal and family law defence lawyers along with wrap-around social services.

Q. What should attendees expect from the day?

A. We hope that this day will be focused on developing strategies and best practices around access to social justice. In our view, the time for rhetoric is past. We know what the problems are and, largely speaking, we know what the solutions are. What we hope to develop are action plans and policies aimed at effecting change and materially improving access to social justice.

For more information about Congress 2016 running May 28 to June 3, 2016 hosted by the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences and the University of Calgary, please visit

Photo caption: John-Paul Boyd, executive director of the Canadian research Institute for Law and the Family, is a key member of the Access to Social Justice planning committee. He is a member of the bars of Alberta and British Columbia and is a frequent speaker on family law topics for the National Judicial Institute, the courts of Alberta and British Columbia, the National Family Law Program, continuing legal education providers and community groups. Photo courtesy of John-Paul Boyd