She sat next to me, staring down at her hands holding the last crumpled tissue from the pack I brought along for our first of several days in court. Of all the items I carried in my volunteer pack, tissues always seemed to get the most use. I could barely stand to look into her pain-filled eyes as she turned to me and whispered, “Please tell me this will be worth it.”
In 2011, Canada was ranked 9 among 12 North American and European countries in an analysis of access to justice. Increasingly, the gap between who qualifies for legal aid and who can afford legal advice and representation widens. And like with most social issues, women are impacted in more profound and complex ways. Double, triple or even quadruple that impact for those who sit at the intersectionality of gender, race, culture, socioeconomic or immigration status. The result is an astounding number of women self-representing in civil or family court matters, or feeling completely helpless as the victim in the midst of criminal court proceedings.