Access to Justice Fund and cy-près

Origin and development of the Access to Justice Fund

Access to Justice Fund 2017 Report

Read the latest impact highlights of the Access to Justice Fund

The Law Foundation of Ontario created the Access to Justice Fund (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.

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

The Foundation created this separate fund to receive cy-près awards to demonstrate to the class action bar, judiciary, and the public how these awards are being used to improve access to justice across Canada.

The ATJF is a permanent fund, available to receive future cy-près awards. If you are considering directing a cy-près award to the ATJF and have questions, please contact Tanya Lee, Chief Executive Officer at or 416-598-1570.

The initial call for applications in 2010 generated a large number of submissions. The ATJF was temporarily closed to further applications due to the high volume of applications received. With the receipt of new cy-près awards, the Foundation re-opened the fund in 2015.

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 has set the stage for new and exciting opportunities for collaboration.

When re-opening the Fund, the Foundation worked with the Association of Canadian Law Foundations (ACLF) and a national ATJF Consultation Group. Both the ACLF and ATJF Consultation Group provided input into possible new directions for the Fund based on their expert knowledge and geographically diverse perspectives.

In both past and current calls the ACLF has assisted with the development and launch of the granting programs.

The membership of the national Consultation Group includes an Ontario Court of Appeal Judge, a former Chair of the Foundation, the Executive Directors of the Alberta and British Columbia Law Foundations, a law school Dean and a representative recommended by the Barreau du Québec.

Funding to Advance Access to Justice for families in Canada

The Law Foundation of Ontario invites applications from nonprofit organizations across Canada to the Access to Justice Fund (ATJF) in the area of family law, including child protection.

Preference will be given to applications that address one (or more) of the following:

  • Constitute novel or “breakthrough” innovations that could dramatically improve access to justice or outcomes for families
  • Use technology to reach people more effectively
  • Pilot programs that have a reasonable chance of finding ongoing funding (while the Foundation does not generally provide funding to government or legal aid agencies, we are interested in ideas that have the support of those system partners)
  • Will provide meaningful insights into outcomes in family law matters, particularly applied research that will provide insights into what is working and where improvements could be made. Any research proposal must demonstrate concrete benefit to community members

The call for small grants closed on June 30, 2017.

The call for major grants closed on October 2, 2017.

Learn more about the Family Law Call webpage.


2016 ATJF Call – Funding to advance access to justice across Canada

The 2016 call accepted applications from nonprofit organizations from across Canada for projects addressing legal needs of or relating to:

  • Children and youth
  • Consumers
  • Public legal education, intake and referral
  • Racialized groups
  • Refugees

This call closed on April 1, 2016.

Learn more about the 2016 ATJF Call.


Funding to Advance the Protection of Investor Rights in Canada

Class actions often involve investor rights and granting in this area was a condition of one of the cy-près awards the Foundation received. Many ordinary Canadians invest in the market to provide needed income, but they may lack financial literacy or expertise and require information and protection when navigating the often complex investment landscape. Without adequate information and protection, the rights of retail investors, especially the most vulnerable, may be compromised.

This call closed on November 30, 2015.

Learn more.


Indigenous Peoples’ Legal Needs

The Law Foundation of Ontario regularly makes grants for projects and programs that address Indigenous peoples’ legal needs. The Foundation is approaching organizations we have worked with before to support projects that meet the legal needs of Indigenous peoples. Additionally, we are talking to organizations with relationships with other law foundations. The work we are undertaking now is part of the ATJF and it constitutes a second round of ATJF grant-making in this area.

This call closed on March 1, 2017.

Learn more.


Progress made

Since the launch of the ATJF in May 2010:

  • The Foundation has funded more than 170 grants for a total of close to $19 million. See the list of funded projects here.
  • The grants have covered linguistic and rural access to justice, Indigenous peoples legal needs, self-help, family violence, and consumer rights.
  • The grants have included cross-country projects, single-province projects, and projects involving more than one province or territory.
  • To date, the Access to Justice Fund has received a total of 16 cy-près awards.

Many courts have approved the Foundation as a fitting and accountable recipient of cy-près awards. See the list of class actions that generated cy-près awards received by the Foundation and the ATJF.

Future calls for applications

The Foundation continually reviews directions for the ATJF. We will share any new opportunities as they are developed.