Pro Bono Students Canada

Lawyers flip their wigs for the Flip Your Wig Campaign

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By Sebastien Bell, January 23 2014, Precedent Magazine

Ontario law school deans with PBSC National Director, Nikki Gershbain (center)

Ontario law school deans with PBSC National Director, Nikki Gershbain (center)

Flip Your Wig for Justice invites lawyers to abandon their pride to help Ontario’s legal system. The campaign asks people from the legal community and beyond to don ‘wacky’ wigs on March 6 to raise both money for and awareness of issues regarding access to justice.

Flip Your Wig was created by seven non-profit and volunteer-based organizations united by their concern over the difficulties many Ontarians face when they are involved in a legal dispute. According to the Flip website, only about 6.5 percent of legal matters ever make it to the formal justice system.

“I think it is one of the most pressing problems we have in the functioning of our democracy,” says Sarah McCoubrey, executive director of the Ontario Justice Education Network. Despite this, McCoubrey thinks that “the crisis feeling isn’t there and I think that’s one of the reasons that we have a hard time solving these problems.”

One of the major problems is the prohibitive cost. Lawyers are expensive and the poor and vulnerable are up to four times more likely to experience social assistance problems, according to an Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters report from 2013.

Chief Justice of Canada Beverley McLachlin, P.C., in the foreword to the report, claimed that we are “increasingly failing in our responsibility to provide a justice system that [is] accessible, responsive and citizen-focused.”

Among Flip Your Wig’s members are the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Pro Bono Students Canada and the Ontario Justice Education Network. All of which are organizations that help individuals whose needs are not being adequately met by the justice system.

“It’s the first time in Ontario that the access to justice organizations have worked in a collaborative way,” says McCoubrey.

The campaign has also accumulated a number of notable ambassadors. Dean Mayo Moran of the University of Toronto faculty of law, LSUC Treasurer Thomas Conway, and Deputy Minster Stephen Rhodes have all expressed support (and worn a wig) for the cause.

Flip Your Wig for Justice invites those interested in participating to register on their website. Once registered, you can begin a pledge drive, asking friends, family and even strangers to sponsor. Then, on March 6, those brave enough will wear wigs to work. (Though a judicial wig is a propos, it isn’t necessary.)

Discretion, in this case, is not the better part of valour.

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