Access to Justice: Language Access and the Law

By: Jack Xu


By: Jasmine

MCIS is a not-for-profit social enterprise, which means that we invest the money we make from our regular contracts into increasing language access to critical information and services. We have three main goals for this investment: (1) sustaining the industry’s capacity to provide high quality language services at accessible prices while providing a livable income for language professionals, (2) increasing language access overall through innovation and the provision of free services and products, and (3) advocating for the recognition of language access as a human right.

When MCIS first started, we focused on working with non-English-speaking victims of domestic violence; facilitating their access critical care and reporting services. Our belief was then, as it is now, that it is critical to public health and safety that everyone have access to justice. We worked with police services, politicians, and court services to convey the importance of language access as fundamental to justice, and we provided training and certification to language professionals to build trust among all stakeholders – from victims to lawyers and agents of the state – in the quality and trustworthiness of language services.

It has been a long road already, but we’re nowhere near done. Even for native English speakers, access to justice is often prohibitively complex and expensive. Add to that a language barrier, and people are at extreme risk of being taken advantage of without any recourse and perhaps without any understanding that they’ve been the victim of an injustice. And yet, there are few things more fundamental to a democratic society than making sure that everyone is equal before and under the law, and that everyone has equal benefit and protection of the law – as reflected by the beautiful statue picture above which stands beside the Superior Court in Toronto.

That’s why MCIS has decided to recommit to prioritizing investment into language access in the legal context. One example of this commitment is that we have partnered with JusticeNet, a not-for-profit which provides legal services to people who cannot access assistance under Legal Aid Ontario, to provide language access to their services. And we continue to look for more partners in the legal industry who serve marginalized people, to collaborate in the provision of services and in advocating for increased access to justice investment. We are in the process of exploring innovative ways of maximizing investment impact, and in the year to come we are planning to launch several new and exciting initiatives.

Get excited and get involved! Let us know if there is anything you want to see us do to increase access to justice for people facing language marginalization.