New paralegal service in the Valley

Editor’s Note: In recognition of Access to Justice Week (Oct.26-30) we publish this article by paralegal Nicholas McLeod who recently relocated to Madawaska Valley.

The Law Society of Ontario is marking its fifth annual Access to Justice Week to reflect on the necessity of the legal system and the barriers to those who need it. In a recent report, the Law Society found over 40 percent of Ontarians do not believe they have fair and equal access to the justice system.  In addition, 71 percent of people found it intimidating, 69 percent confusing, and 59 percent “not for people like me.”

These views bring up feelings of deep sadness. The rule of law and our justice system is the glue which holds our vast and diverse society together. It permeates every aspect of our life and allows us to live freely — and fairly — together. That the majority has lost faith is an indictment on how we run our most important institution. I think this feeling stems from the report’s other findings:

  • 31 percent of Ontarians have no confidence that they could afford legal services;
  • 31 percent have only a little confidence; and
  • just 9 percent of Ontarians had a great deal of confidence that they could afford representation. 

These results explain why it makes sense that almost two-thirds of people thought that the justice system “serves the rich.”

As a Licensed Paralegal, my profession was created to fill the needs of those who can not afford legal representation at lower court levels. I am proud to serve those who may have no other option but to navigate the ancient and archaic legal system themselves. In reality, the justice system is the great equalizer that allows the vulnerable and the poor to stand up and overcome those who wish to abuse them. 

I was having dinner with my family when I received a call from a disabled single mother of five children.  Through tears she cried, “My landlord is coming right now to kick me out of my house.”  I got directly in my car and drove over to her house where the landlord was berating this poor woman. I told the landlord to leave, and assured the distraught mother that no one would be making her homeless. After a letter to the landlord describing their numerous illegal actions, they wrote a cheque to my client and apologized. 

I began my practice in Brantford and relocated to Barry’s Bay in April. I was astounded to find myself as the only paralegal within an hour’s radius. Since the legal system reopened in September I have been inundated with requests for help — from accused persons needing criminal representation, to a retired veteran ripped off by a roofer, and a pair of elderly parents whose adult son refuses to leave the house calling himself a “tenant.” 

Access to justice is a problem we must continue to work on, but the paralegal community is here to help fill that gap. I hope once people experience excellent legal representation, at reasonable cost, their views on the legal system will begin to change and they will see the system as the great equalizer there to protect them.

Nicholas McLeod is a Paralegal licensed by the Law Society of Ontario.  He lives in Barry’s Bay with his wife and three (soon to be four) young children.  He can be reached through his website at or by phone anytime at 647.469.4726.

image: The Action Group on access to justice, Law Society of Ontario

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