On December 9, 2019, Ontario's Attorney General, Doug Downey, Introduced the Smarter and Stronger Justice Act 2019 - a Bill that proposes over 20 Statutory and Regulatory changes.
The result of a series of consultations over the summer through the Modernization and Innovation review and through the Legal Aid Services Act Review, proposals include:
On January 1, 2020, important civil justice reforms will come into effect. The reforms were introduced through:
Please also note that a regulation filed on October 23, 2019 amends the Rules of the Small Claims Court court forms relating to garnishment proceedings (O. Reg 345-19).
On December 4th, Ontario's Auditor General released a damning report highlighting the slow pace of modernization and how that is contributing to growing delays in Ontario courts and creating serious deficiencies in transparency.
Also problematic, was the fact that the Auditor General’s Office was blocked from fully examining the reasons for those delays.
NOTE ON FORT FRANCIS COURTROOM USAGE
While the Rainy River District Law Association Association welcomes the Auditor General’s report on court operations and correctional services, saying it is an important contribution to provincial efforts to make Ontario's justice system more efficient and fair, it issued a Press Release disputing the Auditor General’s findings regarding the under-utilization of the courtrooms in the Fort Frances Courthouse.
Family Court Services
1. Based on the limited information made available to us, we found that effective and efficient court service processes are not in place for protecting children in accordance with legislated statutory timelines, but the extent of this issue is unknown.
2. Because the Ministry did not have accurate and complete information captured in its information system and the restriction placed in our access to individual child protection case files, we were unable to determine how many of the outstanding child protection cases were subject to the statutory timelines and/or the reasons why cases exceeded the timelines.
3. The Ministry did not have effective oversight of its contracts with the service providers in delivery of family mediation and other services across the province
Criminal Court System
1. The Ministry of the Attorney General (Ministry) does not have effective systems and procedures in place to determine if its taxpayer funded resources are being used or allocated efficiently and in a cost-effective way to support the timely disposition of criminal cases.
2. The Ministry lacks the key data it needs to measure and publicly report on the results and effectiveness of the operations of mental health courts in Ontario.
3. Our Office experienced delays in receiving information and was not given full access to case files to determine why there are delays in the criminal court system.
1. The overall pace of court system modernization remains slow and the system is still heavily paper-based, making it inefficient and, therefore, keeping it from realizing potential cost savings.
2. With the exception of a few courthouses that were experiencing over-capacity issues, many other courthouses that reported above average delays in disposition of cases were under-utilized in 2018/19.
3. We experienced a significant scope limitation by being denied access to information to address our audit objectives on administrative court scheduling, and experienced significant delays in receiving information, such as, for example, staffing statistics that took two months to obtain.
4. The Ministry should do more to manage the increasing number of sick days taken by Division staff and oversee the travel claims submitted by court interpreters.
Lindsey Park, MPP and Parliamentary Assistant to the Attorney General, recently led review of Family and Civil Legislation, Regulations, and Processes. The government’s review explored ways to simplify family and civil court processes, reduce costs and delays, and encourage earlier resolution of disputes.
FOLA’s executive spent much of July 2019 attending various consultation sessions throughout the province and our Family Law Committee Chair, Valerie Brown, prepared our submission, sent to Ms. Park on July 30, 2019.
In March, 2019. The Ministry requested written submissions on their consultation document .
Following consultation with our membership, FOLA presented the Ministry with our submission on April 15, 2019. You can read that submission in its entirety below.
In March, 2019, FOLA presented our formal submission to the Ministry on their proposed amendments to the Juries Act.
In part, FOLA recommended that “No juror address information, but a party could bring a motion to access juror street address information if it is necessary to ensure trial fairness or is otherwise in the interests of justice.” You can access our full submission below.
Following an EY Canada line-by-line review of Government Expenditures, the Ontario Government identified opportunities to move toward full cost recovery for court and transactional services.
After a public and stakeholder consultation period, the new fees were introduced in April 2019.
On March 26, 2019, Doug Downey, MPP (Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte) and then Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Finance (currently AG), filed his Private Member's Bill for first reading in the Legislature. Bill 88 proposes several changes to the Planning Act, which FOLA is enthusiastically supporting.
While the Bill died following Doug's appointment to AG, FOLA is hopeful that it will be reintroduced as a Government Bill in the near future.
Beginning January 1, 2020, the maximum claim filed in Small Claims Court will increase to $35,000. Currently, all claims over $25,000 must proceed in the Superior Court of Justice — one of the busiest courts in Canada — where litigation can take years and can involve expensive legal representation.
Remote Defence Access is now available in:
If you'd like to get started, contact the ministry's innovation office via the email below and you'll be provided with a legal agreement form to complete
The Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG) has enhanced the civil claims online filing service (Ontario.ca/civilclaims) based on feedback from legal associations and users.
As of November 26, 2018, you can:
1. MODERNIZE AND STREAMLINE SERVICES IN THE JUSTICE SECTOR — FROM POLICING TO COURTS TO CORRECTIONS.
The government aims to achieve this by:
a. Streamlining the delivery of legal aid (est. generated savings of over $164 million annually, starting in 2021–22);
b. Leveraging technology to generate administrative efficiencies of up to $9 million annually, starting in 2021–22, for a staff scheduling solution in correctional facilities, and up to $13 million, at maturity, by diverting low‐risk individuals from the correctional system and providing alternatives to incarceration;
c. Modernizing Ontario’s death investigation system with new technology to respond to emerging challenges, such as the opioid crisis (est. annual savings of about $3 million in 2021–22);
d. Generating back‐office efficiencies by amalgamating adjudicative tribunals, saving up to $5 million annually in 2021–22.
e. Digitizing evidence collection and evidence sharing between police services and Crown attorneys;
f. Prioritizing video conferencing as the first option for most types of in‐custody court appearances;
g. Diverting low‐risk individuals from coming into the justice system and reducing the frequency of offenders committing another crime;
h. Continuing with the implementation of the bail bed program to provide beds in community-based facilities for vulnerable people awaiting bail and lacking shelter in Northern communities;
i. Developing justice centres that will integrate justice, health, education, housing and social services to collectively address the complex intersection of risk factors that drive gun‐ and gang-related violence in Ontario; and
j. Modernizing youth justice services, including the closure of underutilized youth justice facilities and reduction of beds in both the open and secure custody detention system as there is a continued trend of lower need for these services (annual savings: $48 million by 2021–22).
2. Proposed legislation that (if passed) would aim to optimize resources, streamline unnecessary processes, and reduce unreasonable time delays by:
a. Allowing Ontario Court of Justice judges and justices of the peace who are appointed to different courts (e.g., the Ontario Superior Court of Justice) to finish cases in progress before they transition fully to their new appointments;
b. Moving to the use of a single, consolidated database to identify potential jurors;
c. Reducing the use of civil juries for simplified procedure trials; and
d. Allowing the Ontario Judicial Council and Justices of the Peace Review Council to publish their annual reports on their websites after submitting them to the Attorney General.
3. Fraud: The government will work with the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA), a new, independent financial regulator, to:
a. Overhaul the licensing system for health service providers to reduce regulatory burden and fraud, including lowering the treatment fees charged by providers; and
b. Reform the flawed medical assessment process to bring credibility and accountability to the assessments that injured claimants must undergo after an accident.
NB: “The government will also work with the Law Society of Ontario to make contingency fee
agreements more transparent for injured claimants who choose to hire a lawyer”.
4. Mortgage Brokers and Lenders: Doug Downey (MPP & PA – FIN) was tasked with conducting a review of the Mortgage Brokerages, Lenders and Administrators Act, 2006. MPP Downey will provide recommendations to the government in the coming months.
1. E-TRANSACTIONS: Adopting a digital first strategy to make more services available online and easier to use, moving away from in-person and paper-based transactions, helping to reduce costs.
2. AUTO INSURANCE: Making it easier to buy auto insurance, including giving drivers more choice when deciding which auto insurance coverage suits their needs and gives them more control over their rates. Adopting a “care, not cash” default clause to ensure that a driver’s auto insurance coverage will pay for treatment (“instead of costly legal fees”). It will also provide for an improved early treatment system, and a return to the default benefit limit of up to $2 million for those who are catastrophically injured in an accident. Makes note of upcoming reforms to the medical assessments process.
3. ESTATE TAXES: Proposing to provide tax relief for families when they need it most. The death of a loved one is a difficult time for families. Effective January 1, 2020, the Estate Administration Tax would be eliminated for taxable estates with assets of $50,000 or less, and would be reduced by $250 for larger taxable estates.
4. RED TAPE: Cutting red tape by 25 per cent by 2020. Once fully implemented, these changes are expected to provide Ontario businesses with over $400 million in ongoing savings on their compliance costs. Red tape reduction legislation will be introduced each fall and spring
throughout this gov’ts mandate