The goal of this qualitative study was to develop data on the experience of self-represented litigants in three Canadian provinces: Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario. Field sites in each province were used as primary data collection points, but SRL respondents also came via social media and from all over each province. In addition, service providers (court staff, duty counsel, pro bono lawyers, staff in community agencies working with SRL’s) were included in the sample. Most respondents (almost 90% of SRL’s and 100% of service providers) participated in an in-depth personal interview; the remaining 10% of SRL’s participated in a focus group.
Data sample 259 SRL’s from the three provinces participated in either an in-depth personal interview or a focus group. Including follow-up interviews, a total of 283 interviews were conducted with SRL’s. In addition 107 interviews were conducted with service providers (defined above).
SRL demographics The characteristics of the SRL sample are broadly representative of the general Canadian population. 50% were men and 50% were women. 50% had a university degree. 57% reported income of less than $50,000 a year and 40% (the largest single group) reported incomes of less than $30,000 a year. 60% of the SRL were family litigants and 31% were litigants in civil court (13% in small claims and 18% in general civil). 4% were appearing in tribunals (the remainder were unassigned). The majority of family SRL’s were filed in the divorce court (Supreme Court, Queen’s Bench or Superior Court) and a smaller number in provincial family court.