Access to Justice Fund and cy-près

Access to Justice Fund 2017 Report

Read the latest impact highlights of the Access to Justice Fund

About the Access to Justice Fund

The Foundation’s Access to Justice Fund (ATJF) is a unique and permanent fund that provides grants to nonprofit organizations across Canada.

When funds allow, the ATJF makes national calls for applications in priority areas. We have made grants in the following areas:

  • Family law (2018)
  • Investor rights (2016)
  • Children and youth; consumers; public legal education, intake and referral; racialized communities; refugees (2016)
  • Indigenous people’s legal needs (2015)
  • Consumer rights; domestic violence; Aboriginal legal issues; linguistic and rural barriers to access to justice; self-help (2010)

ATJF and cy-près awards

The Foundation created the ATJF in 2009 after receiving a $14.6 million cy-près award in Cassano v TD Bank. Courts make cy-près awards when it is not practical to distribute all the proceeds of a class action to individual plaintiffs.

Since then, the Foundation has received additional cy-près awards. This gave us the ability to make the ATJF a permanent fund, available to receive cy-près awards on an ongoing basis. Contact Tanya Lee, CEO, to learn more about directing a cy-près award to the ATJF.

A collaborative approach

Most grantmaking by provincial law foundations is restricted to the law foundation’s home province. In contrast, the ATJF is a national funding source available to make grants across the country and for projects that involve more than one province or territory. This creates new and exciting opportunities for collaboration.

The Foundation works with the Association of Canadian Law Foundations (ACLF) and a national consultation group. Both groups provide input into possible new directions for the ATJF based on their expert knowledge and geographically diverse perspectives. The ACLF contributed significant knowledge and expertise to the Foundation’s grantmaking. The consultation group membership includes a justice of the Court of Appeal for Ontario, a former Chair of the Foundation, the Executive Directors of the Alberta and British Columbia law foundations, and a law school dean.

How it is helping advance access to justice

The ATJF has been an extraordinary opportunity to improve access to justice across the country, especially when other revenue sources are tightly constrained, largely as result of low interest rates on trust accounts.

The ATJF helps meet the public’s legal needs through public legal education, supports in navigating the legal process, pro bono and other legal services, and concrete research to support improvements to the justice system.

Learn more

Future calls for applications

ATJF grantmaking is made possible by cy-près awards. When existing cy-près awards are spent, ATJF grantmaking ends. Its activities continue only if further cy-près awards are received.