The Ontario government has introduced legislation that will improve access to justice for people across the system by modernizing processes and breaking down barriers in the province’s courts, tribunals, estates law, family law and child protection sectors. The Accelerating Access to Justice Act, 2021, if passed, would also fill judicial vacancies faster.
“Justice accelerated is justice delivered. No matter where you live in our province, the growth and well-being of our communities demands easier and faster access to a justice system that works for people,” said Attorney General Doug Downey. “The advancements we are proposing to adopt in this bill will benefit people across Ontario by saving them money and reducing the time they spend waiting for their day in court.”
In response to COVID-19, Ontario implemented a number of urgent measures to move more justice services online and closer to communities. If passed, the Accelerating Access to Justice Act, 2021 would build on these modernization initiatives by:
- Helping fill judicial vacancies faster so people will be able to have their matters heard by a judge more quickly and with fewer delays. These changes would maintain current legislated qualifications to become a judge, as announced in February 2020, and reflect feedback received from justice partners and lawyers. Changes will also support broader efforts to encourage more lawyers to apply by moving the applications process online.
- Permanently allowing the virtual witnessing of wills and powers of attorney to make it easier for people to get these important affairs in order, without the limitations of travelling to access these services in-person.
- Promoting the interests of children by giving them a greater voice in the court process, and better focusing resources of the Office of the Children’s Lawyer.
- Increasing access to justice in French by expanding and guaranteeing the ability of Francophones to file documents in French at all Ontario courthouses and for all matters, including civil and family law.
The province is also proposing to consolidate Ontario’s Land Tribunals by merging the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, Environmental Review Tribunal, Board of Negotiation, Conservation Review Board and the Mining and Lands Tribunal into a new single tribunal called the Ontario Land Tribunal. The new Ontario Land Tribunal would make the land dispute resolution process more efficient by creating a single forum to resolve disputes faster by eliminating unnecessary overlap between cases.
“Today we introduced legislation that will transform the way Ontarians access justice in the courtroom and beyond, particularly in rural, northern, Indigenous, and Francophone communities,” said Attorney General Downey. “As we continue to work together to keep Ontarians safe and support our province’s recovery, we are committed to strengthening the capacity of the justice system to help communities overcome the challenges brought on by COVID-19.”