January 10, 2007
Chief Justice Brian W. Lennox
Chief Justices, Your Honour, colleagues, Mr. Attorney, Mr. Treasurer, members of the bar, honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen:
C’est avec plaisir que je vous adresse la parole une fois de plus en ma qualité de juge en chef de la Cour de justice de l’Ontario lors de cette cérémonie de la rentrée des tribunaux. The Ontario Court of Justice is composed of 284 judges and 309 justices of the peace. The large volume of cases with which the Court deals each year and the large number of people who appear in varying capacities before it mean that, for the majority of the citizens of Ontario who have any contact with the courts, the Ontario Court of Justice will represent the face of justice within the province. On a typical day, thousands of people will appear before justices of the peace in intake or remand courts, or in provincial offences courts, while judges deal with hundreds more in practice, trial and plea courts across the province. In an average year, the judges of the Court will deal with over 550,000 criminal charges, both adult and youth, over 30,000 new family proceedings and over 11,000 appeals under the Provincial Offences Act. During the same period of time, justices of the peace of the Court will deal with over 1,700,000 charges under the Provincial Offences Act, preside over tens of thousands of bail hearings, and review thousands of search warrant applications.
The Court sits at almost 200 distinct court locations across the province, often in large, consolidated courthouses in major metropolitan areas. However, because of the geography of the province and its population distribution, we also sit in much smaller and often remote communities, some of which can be accessed, depending on the season and the weather, only by float plane, motorized canoe or snowmobile. There we frequently sit in improvised quarters in town or legion halls, community centres and other public spaces. Wherever the Court is found, our goal remains the provision of the highest quality of judicial services.
Starting with the creation in 1990 of what has since become the Ontario Court of Justice, the Court has consistently advocated and worked towards a form of administrative autonomy consistent with its constitutional role and its independent adjudicative function. In the 1990s, then Chief Justice Sidney Linden put into place structures, processes, systems, and agreements that continue to make the Ontario Court of Justice a model for many of its peers. Central among these agreements is the Memorandum of Understanding between the Chief Justice of the Court and the Attorney General, which has enabled the Court successfully to accept responsibility for its administrative structure, management and operations.
The Ontario Court of Justice is committed to the basic principles of impartiality, due process, fair trials, and just outcomes. Accessibility, timeliness, and serving the needs of the people of Ontario are inherent components of the Court’s mandate. While the Court has made progress in dealing with systemic issues through initiatives to reduce backlog and achieve early and fair resolutions both in criminal and family law, new challenges continually arise.
I wish now to take a moment to speak both to the progress made in 2006 and to the challenges that lie ahead.
Since at least 1995, the Ontario Court of Justice had been operating on the assumption that it would gradually be transferring its family law jurisdiction to the Family Court of the Superior Court of Justice. Given the current uncertainty regarding future expansion of the Family Court, we are no longer proceeding on that assumption. Indeed, in some respects, 2006 could well be styled as the year of family law within our Court. We have reinforced our internal Advisory Committee on Family Law. That Committee has just completed a second round of consultations with the family bench of the Court to define a long-term vision for family law work that will assist in guiding us through family law policy decisions in the coming years. Members of the Advisory Committee are actively involved in the Family Rules Committee, in quarterly meetings with the Children’s Lawyer and in the joint judicial working group on child protection issues with the Superior Court of Justice.
Reducing delays in child protection cases has been and continues to be a major focus for the Court. The Ontario Court of Justice works closely with the Ministry of the Attorney General, the Ministry of Children and Youth Services and justice partners on the child protection backlog through the Justice Summit and its Family Courts Steering Committee.
In September of 2006, in conjunction with the National Judicial Institute, the Court organized an intensive education program on family and child protection law for criminal law specialist judges who were interested in hearing family law cases, thereby improving our ability to deal with our family law caseloads. It is interesting to note that, despite our Court’s loss of family law jurisdiction as a result of the earlier expansion of Family Court, there are more judges working in the area of family law within the Ontario Court of Justice than at any time in the history of the provincial courts. The Ontario Court of Justice currently retains its family law jurisdiction in approximately 60% of the province.
In 2006, the six additional family law judges appointed by the Attorney General in 2005 made a significant impact on the provision of improved access to the family law services of the Court, particularly in child protection cases. Those judges were assigned to court locations in the Northwest, Northeast, West, Central West and Toronto regions. At each of those locations, the Court and the Ministry jointly established pilot court and community liaison committees, which submitted reports in January 2006 containing recommendations for improvements both at the local and provincial levels. The judges who chaired these committees are focussed on implementing the local level recommendations with the support of their Regional Senior Justices. In addition, the pilot committee chairs have met several times to share lessons learned and best practices.
As Chief Justice, I am pleased with the way our Court continues to provide the highest levels of service in the area of family law. There is, however, one matter of constant and growing concern. It has for some time been the position of the Ontario Court of Justice that the family law support services available to the users of family courts throughout the province should be the same, whatever the Court and wherever the Court location. While different levels of service might have been acceptable in the short term in a period of transition and, in particular, in anticipation of an accelerated expansion of the Family Court model throughout the province of Ontario, they are neither sustainable nor justifiable in the long term in the absence of such an expansion. The obvious disparity in the provision of such basic family law services as mediation has had serious consequences on the parties appearing in family courts and impacts the Ontario Court of Justice’s ability to manage its caseloads. Our goal is to ensure that necessary services are available wherever and whenever they are needed to support families and children in crisis.
In a larger context, I believe that it would be of benefit to begin now a fundamental review of family justice within the province. The Ontario Court of Justice strongly supports the concept and the principles of unified family law jurisdiction. However, the timeframes involved in Family Court expansion have been too long and are now too uncertain. This year will mark the 30th anniversary of the creation of the Unified Family Court as a pilot project in Hamilton. It has been over 11 years since the first expansion of that project and over seven years since the second and latest expansion. I intend no criticism with these comments. The current state of family law within Ontario was never intended and could not have been foreseen. It is a product of happenstance rather than design. No one would deliberately have set out to create or to perpetuate the patchwork pattern of family courts that we now have within the province. Despite the difficulties caused by fragmented jurisdiction, both the Ontario and Superior Courts of Justice have, in fact, made major gains on many fronts in the area of family law. Nevertheless, I firmly believe that we need with some urgency to develop a clear vision and policy framework and a firm timetable for the purpose of making consistent and coherent decisions on the future of family courts and family court services in Ontario.
Criminal law continues to represent the greater part of the Court’s workload. In 2006, the Ontario Court of Justice received the largest number of adult and youth criminal charges in its history; over 600,000 charges, representing an increase of almost 7% over the preceding year. This increase is somewhat paradoxical in light of the fact that, in 2005 (as in each of the preceding two years), Ontario, the most populous, heavily urbanized and industrialized of Canadian provinces, had the lowest crime rate of any of the provinces and territories in Canada. In addition, the crime rate in Ontario in 2005 was the lowest that it had been in the province in almost 30 years. More specifically, in 2005, Ontario had the lowest rate of drinking and driving incidents, the second lowest rate of violent crime and the third lowest rate of property offences in Canada.
While well over 96% of the criminal charges laid in Ontario are disposed of within the Ontario Court of Justice, only a relatively small percentage of these (5-8%) actually go to trial. Eighty seven percent of all charges laid are dealt with either by plea of guilty or withdrawal. Despite these statistics, one problem of increasing concern is the fact that those charges that will not ultimately require a trial still consume a significant and a growing proportion of the Court’s resources. An accused person who resolves his or her charges without setting a trial date now appears in court on average almost eight times until disposition of those charges, an increase of 50% over the last 7 years.
Individual cases that do go to trial are taking longer at trial and, overall, the age of the charges pending is growing. While most of these charges are not at risk of violating the constitutional right to trial within a reasonable time, the number and age of the charges pending clearly indicates that we still have work to do to address the issue of backlog in the criminal courts in Ontario.
In 2006, the guns and gangs initiative announced by the Premier saw our complement increase by three judges within the GTA, which has been of considerable assistance. That initiative represented one of the biggest single investments in criminal prosecutions in Ontario’s history and we are now experiencing the impact of these major and complicated prosecutions.
As many of you know, starting in 2002, in order to address the complex issues facing the justice system, all three Courts in Ontario in collaboration with the Ministry of the Attorney General and particularly the Deputy Attorney General, have met with a broad spectrum of justice sector leaders at an annual Justice Summit. I would like to thank Ann Merritt and her colleagues in the Court Services Division of the Ministry for taking the organizational lead for the Justice Summit this past year. It was very well attended, and discussions were full and frank. In the area of criminal law, the Summits have succeeded in producing excellent best practices recommendations and case management protocols. The Ontario Court of Justice also continues to work with the Ministry of the Attorney General, Courts Administration and the bar in a variety of delay reduction initiatives at various locations throughout the province.
Over the past year, we have also continued to refine our analysis of available statistical material relating to our criminal law activities for the purpose of improving the provision of justice services and access to our Court. In this regard, I would like to acknowledge and thank Diana Hunt and her colleagues in the Strategic Planning and Information Unit of the Ministry of the Attorney General for their commitment in assisting the Ontario Court of Justice with our statistical data. With their help we are in the best position we have ever been to manage our courts proactively upon a solid foundation of reliable information. I look forward to that relationship continuing in future years.
One of the great strengths of the Ontario Court of Justice continues to be its education programming. For judges of the Court, the Education Secretariat coordinates education policy and programming that have brought a progressive, integrated and innovative education focus to the Court and have kept the Ontario Court of Justice in the forefront of judicial education in Canada. The Secretariat and the Ontario Conference of Judges are dedicated to promoting judicial expertise through continuing judicial education. While frequent use is made of outside resources, such as lawyers, government and law enforcement officials, academics and other professionals, the judges of the court remain the key to the development and presentation of these programs. In the past year, the Court has itself presented 46 days of education programming for judges and 54 days for justices of the peace.
As I have stated on prior occasions, the Ontario Court of Justice enjoys a strong and productive relationship in the field of education with the National Judicial Institute (NJI), sharing with the NJI, among other things, the position of Education Director for the Court, and Coordinator of Education Programming for provincial and territorial Courts across Canada. This relationship has led to a number of ongoing benefits, including the development of a week-long new judges skills-based program for provincial judges across Canada, first presented in November 2004. This highly successful program benefited greatly from the contributions made by several judges of the Ontario Court of Appeal. This past year, the NJI and the Court developed the Family Law Primer program for the Ontario Court of Justice to which I referred earlier. Also in 2006, the Court worked closely with the National Judicial Institute on the development for justices of the peace of a new, advanced, skills-based program focussed on bail hearings. The program will be made available through the National Judicial Institute to justices of the peace as well as to judges who preside over bail hearings in jurisdictions across Canada.
JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS ADVISORY COMMITTEE
The process for appointing judges through the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee is a unique feature of the Ontario Court of Justice. First created as a pilot project by then Attorney General Ian Scott in 1989, the Committee has become a widely-regarded model of an independent and objective judicial appointment process. The Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee is composed of 13 members: two judges, three lawyers (each one appointed by an independent law association), one member appointed by the Ontario Judicial Council and seven persons (neither judges nor lawyers) appointed by the Attorney General. The overall process of appointment and the structure and composition of the Committee were intended to limit the opportunity for political interference in the appointment process. The presence of a majority of lay members was designed both to increase public involvement and to ensure public confidence in the process.
For each judicial vacancy, the Committee (following criteria which it has developed and published) advertises, receives and reviews applications, makes discreet inquiries, interviews candidates and, finally, provides a short list of highly-recommended candidates to the Attorney General. The Attorney General can only recommend to the Lieutenant Governor for appointment a candidate who is on the list submitted by the Committee. In an average year, the Committee reviews hundreds of applications, makes further hundreds of inquiries and interviews scores of applicants to ensure that the best candidates are identified, considered and recommended for appointment. The work, which is intensive and time-consuming, demands strong dedication and commitment from the Committee members and has been consistently reflected in the high quality of appointments to the Court. Since the creation of the Committee in 1989, almost 85% of the judges who are now on the Ontario Court of Justice have been appointed through the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee process. In 2006 alone, the Attorney General made 20 appointments.
I would like to take this occasion to recognize and to thank all of the members of the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee, past and present, for the enormous contribution that they have made to the development of the modern Ontario Court of Justice.
(See http://www.ontariocourts.ca/ocj/jaac/ for details of the structure, composition, policies and procedures of the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee.)
JUSTICES OF THE PEACE
The year 2006 brought fundamental changes to the justice of the peace system in Ontario, changes which have, in large measure, been advocated by the Court for the better part of a decade and for which I would like to take this opportunity publicly to thank the Attorney General. The passage of the Access to Justice Act 2006 may well represent the most significant reform of the justice of the peace system in Ontario since 1360, the year in which Edward III enacted a statute entitled What sort of persons shall be Justices of Peace; and what authority they shall have. The Access to Justice Act significantly improves our ability to serve the public and to enhance access to justice of the peace services. La loi établit une désignation unique de juge de paix président, à temps plein, ainsi qu’une nouvelle désignation complémentaire de juge de paix mandaté sur une base journalière (soit un juge de paix à la retraite qui accepte de travailler à temps partiel); elle modernise la procédure disciplinaire et la sépare complètement du processus de nomination des juges de paix; elle établit pour la première fois des critères d’éligibilité pour la nomination au poste de juge de paix et établit le Comité consultatif sur la nomination des juges de paix, ce qui répond directement à certaines critiques formulées à l’égard de l‘ancien processus de nomination; finalement, de façon claire et non équivoque, elle incorpore la fonction de juge de paix à l’intérieur de la Cour de justice de l’Ontario. Déjà, dès la proclamation de la loi, on a pu procéder à l’utilisation des juges de paix mandatés sur une base journalière, ce qui a permis une flexibilité additionnelle et très utile dans l’affectation des tâches. All of this unmistakably strengthens our justice of the peace bench and responds directly to serious resource issues in a way that should allow us better to meet the growing demands for justice of the peace services across the province.
Supplementing the justice of the peace initiatives contained in the Access to Justice Act, the Attorney General recently announced an immediate increase of 15 justices of the peace or 5% of the Court’s justice of the peace complement. That complement now stands at the equivalent of 315 full-time justices of the peace. At the same time, the Ministry and the Court continue to consult on a suitable complement model to determine the appropriate complement for justice of the peace resources.
2006 was a year of renewal for the senior administrative justices of the peace within the Ontario Court of Justice. Regional Senior Justices of the Peace Bob Leggate (Central East Region), Carol Jadis (Central West Region), Doug Powell (East Region) and Bruce Leaman (Northwest Region) left their offices to be replaced respectively by Regional Senior Justices of the Peace Cornelia Mews, Jerry Redmond, Claudette Holmes and Marjorie Pasloski. Regional Senior Justice of the Peace Frank Devine (Toronto Region) also elected to sit on a per diem basis and will be replaced early in the New Year.
The Ontario Court of Justice continues to support and participate in technology initiatives intended to improve the effectiveness of the justice system, including the development and implementation of a secure, electronic warrant (e-Warrants) alternative to the existing telewarrant system. The initial pilot and evaluation of the e-Warrants system was completed in 2006 and identified the system, in part, as being more efficient and more reliable than the telewarrant system. The Ontario Court of Justice strongly supports the implementation of an e-Warrant system throughout the province.
Over the past year, information technology initiatives within the Ontario Court of Justice have focused on improving the quantity and quality of information made available electronically to judges, justices of the peace and administrative support staff. I am pleased to report that the Court successfully launched its own Intranet site in 2006. This site provides a wealth of information to all of the members of the Court. As an adjunct to the Intranet, the Court has also established an Electronic Conference Registration (ECoR) system for judges and justices of the peace that provides information regarding upcoming conferences and enables on-line registration. The system was developed by the Court’s Information Technology team and is based on a system design prepared by conference support staff. Both ECoR and the Intranet represent important advances in the efficient delivery of administrative support services to the judges and justices of the peace of the Court.
During 2006, the Ontario Court of Justice continued to participate in developing the use of audio and video technology in our courts. This is a key component to improving access to justice for many of the smaller and more remote locations served by the Court. The Court has long recognized that effective use of video and teleconference technologies can assist the public in having better access to justice, particularly in northern Ontario where geography and sparse population present real impediments to physical access.
The key to effective use of audio and video technology is the presence of reliable, high quality, dedicated communication links between courts and small communities. Unfortunately, organizing the use of this technology for any particular court hearing still remains problematic and the quality of the connection often unpredictable. Expanding the effective use of this technology remains a priority of the Court and we encourage the Ministry to continue to improve public access to and use of this technology.
ONTARIO JUDICIAL COUNCIL
Over the past year, I have again had the honour of serving with Chief Justice McMurtry as Co-Chair of the Ontario Judicial Council.
Today I am reporting to you on the Judicial Council’s eleventh year of operation (April 1, 2005 to March 31, 2006). During that time, the Council received 23 new complaints. It also carried forward 19 complaint files from previous years. Of the total of 42 complaint files, 21 files were closed before March 31, 2006. The remaining 21 complaint files were carried over into the twelfth year.
Each complaint disposed of was investigated by a two-member complaint subcommittee, composed of a provincial judge member and a community member of the Council. Where necessary, the subcommittee reviewed the transcript and/or the audiotape of the proceedings that took place in court. In some instances, further investigation was conducted. At the conclusion of its investigation, the complaint subcommittee made a recommendation as to the disposition of the complaint to a four-member review panel of the Council. The review panel is composed of representatives from the community, the bench and bar. None of its members has any prior knowledge of the complaint and the review panel does not know the names of those persons involved in the complaint. The review panel may approve of the disposition recommended by the complaint subcommittee or it may disagree and make its own disposition.
The Judicial Council dismissed 20 of the 21 complaints dealt with in the eleventh year. The complaints that were dismissed either were found to be outside of the jurisdiction of the Council or involved allegations that were determined to be unfounded after an investigation had been completed. The one remaining file, which had been carried over from the tenth year, was closed following a public hearing at the end of which the hearing panel found no misconduct and dismissed the complaint. Full details of the hearing can be found at the Court’s website (below).
Case summaries of all the complaint files closed during the eleventh year of the Ontario Judicial Council’s operation will be included in the Council’s 11th Annual Report, which will be posted on the Court’s website following tabling of the Report in the Legislative Assembly.
JUSTICES OF THE PEACE REVIEW COUNCIL
Over the past year, I also had the honour of serving as Chair of the Justices of the Peace Review Council (JPRC). The mandate of the JPRC under the Justices of the Peace Act is twofold:
- to review proposed appointments to the justices of the peace bench and,
- to investigate and review complaints of alleged misconduct made against justices of the peace
During its sixteenth year (April 1, 2005 to March 31, 2006), the Review Council interviewed 65 persons who had been referred to it by the Attorney General for consideration as candidates for the position of full-time justice of the peace. The Council reported its recommendations to the Attorney General as to each candidate’s qualifications and suitability for the position of justice of the peace.
In the calendar year 2006, the Ontario Court of Justice received 18 full-time justice of the peace appointments.
In addition to interviewing candidates for justice of the peace positions, the Justices of the Peace Review Council, in accordance with the second part of its mandate, received 52 complaints alleging misconduct by a justice of the peace in 2005/2006, and carried forward 58 complaint files from previous years. Of these 110 complaint files, 61 were closed before the March 31st, 2006 year-end. No misconduct was found in 52 of those 61 closed files. With respect to the other nine complaint files, involving two justices of the peace, the JPRC conducted two separate investigative hearings under s. 11 of the Justices of the Peace Act. The Council concluded that there had been no misconduct regarding four of the complaints, which were dismissed. The remaining five complaint files were forwarded to the Attorney General with a recommendation that a section 12 public hearing be held. The justice of the peace who was the subject of all five complaints resigned from office prior to the scheduled date of the public hearing and the Council accordingly closed its files. (Regardless of the nature or the status of a complaint, the Justices of the Peace Review Council automatically loses jurisdiction to deal with a complaint once the justice of the peace complained of retires or resigns from Office).
As indicated earlier, the Justices of the Peace Review Council will undergo profound changes in the coming year as a result of the proclamation of the Access to Justice Act, 2006. This Act makes significant amendments to the Justices of the Peace Act including modifying the structure, powers and functioning of the Council. Effective January 1st, 2007, a reconstituted Justices of the Peace Review Council will deal only with complaints and will no longer be involved in the justice of the peace appointments process. The appointment of members to the newly structured Council has already begun and draft procedures for the Council have been developed. Once Council membership is established and procedures are approved, the newly formed Council will begin considering complaints which have been received since the proclamation date of the amendments. All complaints received prior to the proclamation date will continue to be considered under the unamended Justices of the Peace Act by the former Review Council. Until these older complaints are dealt with, there will be essentially two separate and distinct Justices of the Peace Review Councils operating simultaneously under different complaint procedures.
RÉSEAU ONTARIEN D’ÉDUCATION JURIDIQUE (ROÉJ) / ONTARIO JUSTICE EDUCATION NETWORK (OJEN)
Cette année, le Réseau ontarien d’éducation juridique (ROÉJ) a consolidé ses liens avec les enseignants des établissements de langue française et d’immersion en français. L’Institut estival de droit de langue française a été inauguré en août dernier à Ottawa. Les enseignants ont ainsi pu mettre à profit leurs échanges avec des avocats et des juges pour se perfectionner au plan professionnel. L’événement a été rendu possible grâce à la collaboration du comité du ROÉJ d’Ottawa, ainsi que du personnel et des bénévoles de l’Association des juristes d’expression française de l’Ontario. Le ROÉJ a également consolidé ses liens avec la direction de l’aménagement linguistique du ministère de l’Éducation, dans le but de remédier au manque de ressources en français à la disposition des étudiants en droit et en éducation civique. Des membres du barreau et des éducateurs ont prêté main-forte au ROÉJ dans l’élaboration et l’examen des nouvelles ressources de langue française.
Outre la direction soutenue offerte par l’appareil judiciaire, les efforts des juges de paix ont entraîné cette année des résultats nouveaux et innovateurs. Non seulement les juges de paix rencontrent-ils les étudiants dans les palais de justice et en classe, ils jouent également un rôle clé dans les activités mobiles, notamment en encourageant les activités d’éducation juridique dans les collectivités accessibles par avion. Notons également la mise sur pied, grâce à la direction dont font preuve les juges de paix, d’un nouveau programme permettant aux étudiants de vivre une expérience devant un tribunal. Repris dans l’ensemble de la province, ce programme permet aux étudiants d’observer des professionnels dans un palais de justice et de comparer leurs points de vue sur les rôles respectifs du procureur et de l’appareil judiciaire. Et enfin, les juges de paix offrent aux étudiants la possibilité de simuler une enquête sur le cautionnement dans une atmosphère réaliste, leur donnant l’occasion de juger par eux-mêmes de l’importance, pour les accusés, les victimes et la collectivité, de la phase précédant l’instruction.
Chacune de ces nouvelles expériences s’inscrit dans le prolongement des activités existantes et contribue ainsi à enrichir considérablement le Réseau ontarien d’éducation juridique à travers la province.
I have today begun to distribute the first Annual Report of the Ontario Court of Justice, which describes the work of the Court in 2005 and also contains a comprehensive description of the Court’s evolution, its jurisdiction, structure and other matters of interest to the public. I had expected to be able to release the Report earlier last year, but was unfortunately unable to do so until now.
Although a number of copies of the Report have been printed for distribution, it is intended to be essentially web-based in order to make it as accessible as possible to the largest number of readers. Electronic copies of the Report can be found on the Court’s website at http://www.ontariocourts.on.ca/ocj.htm. It is my hope that this Annual Report and succeeding Reports will assist in promoting a better understanding of our justice system and of the role of the Ontario Court of Justice within that system.
For the Ontario Court of Justice, the last decade has been one of major advancements. Both the judges and the justices of the peace have seen an increase in their jurisdiction, their workload and their responsibilities. Our open and transparent judicial appointment process is unparalleled – yielding exceptional and timely appointments. Our interest and understanding and, I believe, our capacity to manage our constitutionally mandated functions has evolved to the point where we have not only articulated our roles and responsibilities through an MOU with the Attorney General but have also been integral to spearheading initiatives that strengthen judicial participation and leadership over the administration of the courts.
As I approach the end of my term as Chief Justice, there are a number of people to whom I owe a great deal of thanks. I begin with the public servants with whom I have been privileged to work: Deputy Attorneys General Andromache Karakatsanis, Mark Freiman and Murray Segal; Assistant Deputy Attorneys General Debra Paulseth, Ann Merritt, John McMahon and Paul Lindsay. They and their respective staffs within the Ministry of the Attorney General have always represented for me the very best of a public service in which Ontario can take great pride. In addition, the qualities of Ministry staff are to be found, not only in the ranks of senior management, but also and overwhelmingly in offices, large and small, and in courthouses and courtrooms throughout the breadth and width of the province. It has often been an inspiration to work with such a dedicated, talented and qualified staff.
I am particularly indebted to those outstanding individuals who have occupied the office of Executive Coordinator within the Office of the Chief Justice: Jim Malcolm, Janice Mackintosh and Lori Newton; to my secretary Reimunda Stirbys and to all of the staff of the Office of the Chief Justice who have done so much to contribute to the building of the Court and to the ideals of public service for which we constantly strive.
I have also enjoyed strong support from Chief Justices Patrick LeSage and Heather Smith of the Superior Court of Justice.
I would like to make special mention of the work of Associate Chief Justices Don Ebbs and Amie Bonkalo. Justice Ebbs has worked diligently and effectively throughout his term as Associate Chief Justice/Coordinator of Justices of the Peace to bring significant and positive changes to our justice of the peace bench, which will prove to be of great benefit in the future. He has in addition been instrumental in the re-invigoration of our family law bench. Associate Chief Justice Bonkalo has been responsible principally for the Court’s Education Secretariat and its strong education program, as well as our per diem judge program. She will now, in addition, assume responsibility for family law matters within the Court. I am indebted to both of them for their hard work, counsel and friendship.
Within the Ontario Court of Justice itself, I have had the great good fortune constantly to be surrounded and sustained by remarkable judicial colleagues: Chief Justice Sidney Linden, Associate Chief Justices Marietta Roberts, David Wake, Don Ebbs and Amie Bonkalo, together with all of the Regional Senior Judges and Justices of the Peace and local administrative judges and justices of the peace who have served during my term of office.
Being a judge is a humbling experience. Sitting in judgment over one’s fellow human beings is an enormous responsibility and a significant public trust, of which judges are forever mindful. For many people who appear in court, their involvement in a court proceeding will represent one of the most important and potentially traumatic events of their lives. In whatever capacity they appear, most have been brought to court by little more than fate and circumstance. They must be dealt with, fairly, impartially and with respect. In this, as in all of the work of the Court, I have been especially fortunate in being supported by that large and extraordinary group of talented and dedicated women and men who make up the Ontario Court of Justice. It is they who have given quality and substance to what has become a particularly strong Court within an exceptional judicial system. We are all privileged to be part of a legal system that is recognized, both nationally and internationally, as one of the finest in the world.
I am continually impressed by the dedication, commitment and abilities of all of those who work within our justice system: members of the bar (whatever the interests they represent), court administrators and staff, law enforcement agencies, social agencies, legal aid, various service providers and the judiciary of whom I have already spoken. Collectively they sustain a respected, independent, fair, and indeed enviable, court system, which continues to reflect those fundamental values which remain at the core of Canadian society: those values include the rule of law, freedom of conscience and religion, of thought and expression; democratic rights; life, liberty and security of the person; freedom from arbitrary or unreasonable state intrusion; the right to an independent and impartial tribunal; in sum, equality, tolerance and justice.
In closing, I would like to speak briefly about Chief Justice McMurtry. He is a remarkable man and a true leader, who has occupied a variety of important, difficult and challenging positions, but who, for all that, has had in fact only one career, that of public service. Chief Justice McMurtry combines a unique blend of intelligence, empathy, wisdom and experience that have served us all well and become manifest in his role of Chief Justice. It has, for me, been a genuine privilege and pleasure to have had the opportunity over the past seven years to share this particular platform, and at times, others, with Chief Justice McMurtry and to work with him on occasion in different capacities. For all of the members of the Ontario Court of Justice, it is an honour and a source of considerable pride that we work in a province where you, Chief Justice, are our Chief Justice. Je me permets de joindre à ces commentaires, Monsieur le juge en chef, l’expression de la profonde gratitude que les francophones de l’Ontario ont toujours ressentie pour les services insignes que vous leur avez rendus tout au cours de votre remarquable carrière