Our Ontario Civil Justice System Needs Fixing Now

When the Women’s March on Washington took place earlier this year, the best placard I saw was one that said “I can’t believe I still have to protest for these rights.” I feel similarly about the Ontario Civil Justice System. I’ve been a lawyer for 24 years in this province. The delays in getting to trial are no shorter, in some cases they are longer, than they were when I started practice.

The old fashioned paper method of doing things is still the main way Justice is carried out in Ontario. Thankfully, in Small Claims matters, there is now a formal electronic filing system; however, it only goes so far.

Unfortunately, in the Superior Court system (claims of $ 25,001 and up) there is still no electronic filing, no internet usage at all. This, despite the fact that over 15 years ago there was a pilot system in the Province (our firm participated in it) that allowed us to e-file claims and note parties in default. It was not a lot, but it was something and then suddenly it was gone.

Our government needs to commit to modernizing our legal system. It’s cheaper to do this now that it was 15 years ago. We no longer need proprietary software: many other regions have done this – let’s use their software. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

Let’s use Skype or other video conferencing software for pre-trials and adjournment requests. Let’s use email to communicate between the Court and the lawyers.

Or hey, how about as a baby step, we permit service of documents by email provided the sender receives an email acknowledging receipt of the document?

There is a lot of press these days about the cost of litigation. Judges regularly admonish counsel about the cost of litigation. Let’s acknowledge it’s not all the lawyers’ fault. The fault lies in the system we’re required to operate in.

Let’s get this fixed.

Inga B. Andriessen JD

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