Access to Justice - CODAworx

Access to Justice

Submitted by John Atkin

Client: Law Society of Upper Canada

Location: Toronto, Canada

Completion date: 2018

Artwork budget: $170,000

Project Team

Industry Resource

Mike Bilyk

Lafontaine Iron Werks Inc


John Atkin

ArtAtk Ltd

Art Consultant

Lani Wilson

Government of Ontario Art Collection

Art Consultant

Alicia Couts

Toronto Art Restoration


My “Access to Justice” installation sculpture is based on a key aspect of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which enables people from different backgrounds and cultures equality before the law. This fairness extends to all ethnic groups, gender and age groups. The notion of removing barriers is central to the understanding of my artwork, and the proximity of the sculpture adjacent to the offices of the Law Courts of Upper Canada underpins this concept. The sculpture is made from a combination of Corten steel, stainless steel and painted steel.


My sculpture is characterised by a series of gateways, at different heights & widths. Crucially, from whatever angle you approach the sculpture from, the viewer will have a vista onto the Law Courts: a clear sightline from their own perspective, through the sculpture and onto the buildings that enshrine the justice system.
Normally, these flat plane surfaces would be read as a barrier or obstacle, except this landmark artwork has gateway apertures that allow the viewer to pass through a series of portals: a metaphor for doorways to the Justice system. This physical and conceptual barrier is resonant of a series of rules that intersect at different points, with doorways that facilitate access through the space. The apertures are disability aware to facilitate interaction for all users and are non-discriminatory.
The use of the colour blue in this concept is also important as it has metaphors to the Great Lakes, which punctuate the landscape and are integral to Canadian culture & identity. The Corten steel gateways is a metaphor for the past, as well as industry representing notions of human endeavour. Stainless steel captures the reflections of all nationalities into the surfaces of the artwork: equality before the Law.


Creating a landmark project such as this is a group effort and I am indebted to Seymour Epstein for his tenacity in seeing this project through to its completion as well as Judge Gloria Epstein, whose vision for McMurty Gardens of Justice enabled the project in the first place.
Judge Roy McMurtry (Born May 31st, 1932) to whom the public walkway where “Access to Justice” is located. He held several high offices including Attorney General, High Commissioner to Canada to the UK, and latterly Chief Justice of Ontario. He was regarded as a great unifier who was able to find common ground between competing voices.
I’m indebted to Mike Bilyk (Director, Lafontaine Iron Werks Inc) for his generosity and hospitality during the course of making Access to Justice at his workshop in Tiny, Ontario, and for allowing me to use one of his out buildings as a studio to develop the models and drawings from which the sculpture was made. Also, Lani Wilson and Alicia Couts for their support and tireless enthusiasm for the project aims.
Lastly, I am indebted to the Law Society of Upper Canada, without whom this sculpture would not have happened. Their generosity has created a lasting legacy.

Additional Information

Canada is renowned as a tapestry of cultures, as opposed to the cultural melting pot of the United States. The distinction being that difference is celebrated in Canada and adds to the vitality of the country through the cosmopolitan diversity of migrants who have contributed to Canadian culture & society. Close to my sculpture, opposite City Hall is “The Archer”, by Henry Moore: which tipped Canadian culture into Modernism, allowing sculpture to be accessed beyond the boundaries of gallery walls. Access to culture is important for those who still feel excluded from the rarefied atmosphere of commercial galleries and museums.