“All people in this country, regardless of the language they speak, deserve meaningful access to programs and activities that are being conducted or supported by federal agencies.” So start a memorandum issued by US Attorney General, Merrick Garland, on November 21, 2022. Garland is asking federal agencies to review their language access practices and policies, outlining the first broad steps toward that goal.
As a matter of non-discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) oversees federal language access programs. Executive Order 13166 serves as the basis for the government’s Limited English Proficiency (LEP) initiativelaunched in 2002, and which continues to be managed by the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.
Garland asked the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Kristen Clarke, to collaborate with the DOJ’s Language Access CoordinatorAna Paula Noguez Mercado, in order to share best practices and information about language access initiatives with all federal agencies.
Essentially, the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division will collaborate with the Office for Access to Justice, which was introduced in 2021, to first determine the status of compliance among federal agencies. Additional efforts by the Office for Access to Justice include expanding the language access team and leading the Language Access Working Group.
Commitment to Expanding Language Access
Garland’s memorandum also confirms the DOJ’s commitment to expanding language access as part of its 2022–2026 Strategic Plan. The joint effort is expected to examine whether language access policies and plans across all federal
Impacts of limited legal aid
Birnbaum and Bala stressed that the lack of access to family law services and increased self-representation in family proceedings are “growing concerns” in Canada. They found “limited family law funding” as one of the causes of the increasing number of self-represented litigants in family law disputes.
“Increase in self-representation and cuts to legal aid impose significant resource costs on the family justice system, thus negatively impacting the efficiency of the family justice system,” Birnbaum and Bala wrote.
Birnbaum and Bala found that the lack of access to legal aid for family law matters significantly affects women, Indigenous peoples, marginalized groups, and residents of remote and rural communities. Moreover, they found that the effect of the lack of access to legal aid services can lead to serious consequences, such as loss of parenting time, loss of appropriate child and spousal support, and loss of rights to matrimonial property and pensions.
They stressed the need for a “research initiative” in collaboration with researchers, federal, provincial and territorial partners, lawyers, legal organizations, the judiciary, community organizations, and the public to determine the long-term impacts of lack of access to family legal aid and improve the efficiency of legal aid services.