The phenomenon of litigants appearing before courts without legal counsel is well known. As early as 1996, it was the topic of a workshop at the Barreau’s annual meeting. It is a concern for the initiators of community justice centres, which offer, through legal experts, information on family and civil law. The practice of self-representation has also been experimented with in the British legal system, which has established it specifically for cases heard before local tribunals that have been reorganized as county courts (courts of first instance). A brief overview of the phenomenon makes at least three observations possible:
- more and more litigants are not represented by counsel;
- there is relatively unsystematic, rather eclectic recourse to very different approaches, and, moreover, very different ways of dealing with self-representation in Québec; and
- the role of judges who have to rule on cases in which people are unrepresented is changing in order to make up for their inexperience.
The plan is to set up a pilot project to support and track self-represented litigants in the District of Montréal, and to evaluate the project.