Ontario, we need to talk. You have a backlog problem in your courts but especially in your tribunals. I know it seems like legal professionals have been complaining about judicial backlogs since before the Code of Hammurabi was even chiseled into stone, but you have a serious problem Ontario, and I think it’s time for an intervention.
Tribunal Watch Ontario last year reported that the four largest tribunals in Ontario had a collective backlog of over 67,000 cases. The Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) alone accounted for 32,800 of those cases. Do you understand what an insane number that is? The Landlord and Tenant Board has less than 100 members to hear those cases. No wonder the average time to a hearing in the LTB has gone from seven weeks to seven months in the last four years.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “What can I do? I’m just a small province of a measly 15 million people that only accounts for about 40% of Canada’s total GDP. How can I possibly solve this problem?” Well to start, more judges, adjudicators, and court staff would be nice. Ontario’s population is projected to increase by 37.7 percent over the next 25 years and as a province, we should be making sure that our legal system has the resources it needs to serve that ever-growing population. That being said, let’s also not pretend you’ve been doing a good job at keeping the judges and adjudicators you already have.
Did you know that in the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO), the number of final decisions had fallen from an average of 110 a year to just 16 in 2021 and 2022? Even worse, most of those decisions were written by adjudicators whose appointments weren’t renewed and who had to attend hearings and write decisions after their appointments had already ended. You can’t blame that on Covid. That was all you, Ontario. And while you did allocate an extra $1.4 million in funding last year to hire 35 additional staff for the Landlord and Tenant Board, let’s be honest, expecting 35 additional people to solve a 32,800-case backlog is a big ask from your new employees.
This state of affairs obviously can’t continue. Justice sufficiently delayed is indistinguishable from justice denied. We need significant reforms to shape our tribunals to be forward facing, accessible, efficient, and modern. But at this point, I’d settle for doing what we have traditionally done as a Province when faced with a crisis, and that is to throw enough money at the problem until we end up with a barely functional system that hopefully won’t come crashing down on us until it becomes someone else’s problem.
A concerned citizen
Max Shin, Associate Lawyer