Self-represented litigants have won a big victory at the Supreme Court of Canada, but it was like pulling teeth.

Treating people without lawyers fairly seems like motherhood-and-apple-pie and the court being asked to do the work of the angels, but you’d never have known it.

That’s because so many self-represented litigants are so difficult to deal with.

In the end, however, a unanimous high bench endorsed the Canadian Judicial Council’s 2006 statement of principles on self-represented litigants that judges “should do whatever is possible to provide a fair and impartial process and prevent an unfair disadvantage to self-represented persons.”

Importantly, this includes the advice that judges should make referrals to agencies who can provide support — but there’s no money attached.

Although this case involved a clear-cut personal injury action brought by a Calgary man, Valentin Pintea, after a 2007 Alberta car crash, it raised important issues for tens of thousands of self-represented litigants navigating the country’s often inscrutable legal system.

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