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Opening of the Courts

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Remarks for Chief Justice Lise Maisonneuve
Ontario Court of Justice
Opening of Courts: September 12, 2017

Mesdames et Messieurs les juges en chef.  Monsieur le Procureur général Naqvi.  Members of both Courts.  Distinguished guests.

The past year has been a productive and energizing time for our Court.

It was just over a year ago, that the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in R. v. Jordan underlined for all of us the critical importance of timely justice for those before our courts.

The Jordan decision has allowed us to redouble our commitment to court modernization and collaboration with all justice system partners.

Critical to our response has been the provincial government’s investment in additional judicial, prosecution, Legal Aid, court services and bail program resources.

I thank the provincial government and Attorney General Naqvi for promptly meeting our request for an additional complement of 15 new judges to address time to trial pressures in our criminal courts.

Thanks to the diligence and commitment of the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee many of these new judges are already presiding in courts across the province.

I would also like to acknowledge the remarkable work of the Justices of the Peace Appointments Advisory Committee this year in responding to an unprecedented number of justice of the peace vacancies.  Our court welcomed 38 new justices of the peace appointed this summer.

Judicial officials alone will not make the system work. I would like to thank all the justice partners for helping to make case management within the Ontario Court of Justice more productive and timely.

For almost three years the OCJ Criminal Modernization Committee has been a critical forum for mapping out an achievable modernization agenda for our Court.

I would be remiss in not taking this opportunity to thank former Deputy Attorney General, the Honourable Mr. Justice Patrick Monahan for his dedication and commitment in making the OCJ Modernization Committee a meaningful forum for change. Thank you also to Deputy Attorney General, Irwin Glasberg, who enthusiastically took on the responsibility of Committee co-chair upon his appointment in June.

Each of the representatives at the Criminal Modernization table recognizes that no one of us is capable of eliminating trial delays.  Yet, we know that working together we can improve the system to have more timely resolution of criminal cases – in and out of court.

We must always keep the human impact of our court processes in mind. Delays in criminal cases aren’t just headlines and statistics – they have human faces and have real impact on people’s lives, families, and employment.

Our Court’s Judicial Criminal Pre-Trial Best Practices Guidelines is one example of our progress, with the support of our partners at the Modernization Committee.  For several years, we have been identifying procedures that have proven successful in case management, including instituting a second judicial pretrial event.

I am pleased to share that these Best Practices are now used in all of our criminal Courts.

The best practices, including the second, focused pretrial event, have resulted in a notable decline in trial continuations and collapses and as a result better use of valuable court time. We are greatly encouraged by this collaborative initiative.

This past year we have also worked to finalize an electronic judicial criminal scheduling tool. The tool is currently being tested in four court locations and we are optimistic for a province wide implementation in the coming year. This scheduling tool will be a significant asset in allowing our judiciary to more effectively schedule judicial, courtroom and interpreter resources across the province.

The construction of new courthouses is another exciting opportunity to modernize technology and processes to support effective case management.

The new courthouse in Halton, together with the Toronto criminal courthouse under construction and the much needed expansion of the Brampton court facilities are important investments in our justice system in three busy court jurisdictions.

Our Court is working closely with the Superior Court and the provincial government on the expansion of Unified Family Courts.

Through this process we are committed to working with all family justice partners – the bench, Children’s Aid Societies, the bar, family court service providers and the government – to enhance access to justice services for families.

We look forward to hearing back from the Federal Minister of Justice in the coming months about our joint proposal for Unified Family Court expansion across Ontario.

The day to day administration of our Courts is, of course, the foundation of our work in more than 150 courthouses across Ontario.

First, I wish to convey our Court’s thanks to Sheila Bristo, Assistant Deputy Attorney General and the staff of the Court Services Division, municipal court administrators responsible for our POA courts, and to the service providers in our courts for their dedication and service.

Court staff, Gladue workers, mental health and Indigenous court workers, family court support workers, FLIC information and referral coordinators, mediators, probation staff, bail supervision, victim services and other professionals also play a critical role in supporting parties before our courts.

I would also like to thank all of the judges, justices of the peace and the Ontario Court of Justice judicial administrative team for their dedication. I sincerely appreciate your commitment and creativity in addressing the challenges we face and promoting our Courts modernization efforts.

One of the responsibilities of the judiciary that we invest significant time and effort in is critically important judicial education. I am proud of our court’s record and leadership in judicial education, including programs on substantive legal issues, judicial ethics, judgment writing, social context and equality issues.

Our renewed Continuing Education Plans for OCJ judges and justices of the peace were published in the Spring of this year.

Allow me to take a moment to mark the passing of members of the Court who have died this year.

  • Justice Ted Ormston, was one of our Court’s true leaders and innovators.
  • Justice Tim Culver, former Regional Senior Justice in Central West and member of the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee,
  • Justice of the Peace, Jeanette De Jong and,
  • Shelley Howell, respected and beloved Counsel from our Centre for Judicial Research and Education who contributed so much to judicial education for over 25 years.

We remember them and thank them for their service to the Court.

In the past year we have had two changes in our judicial administration.

I thank Tim Lipson for his contributions as Regional Senior Judge in Toronto.  Congratulations to Aston Hall, who assumed those duties this past weekend. It is an exciting time for the Toronto region with the construction of a new criminal courthouse.

Ted Hodgins completed his term as Regional Senior Justice of the Peace in the Northeast Region in July. I thank him for his service. Lauren Scully is a welcome addition to our Court’s administrative team as the RSJP for the Northeast.

While we have made significant progress with our justice partners this past year, we are conscious that there is still much to do.

We are excited to be working on a number of critically important initiatives and look forward to successful implementation in the year to come.

We look forward to finalizing the e-intake system for our court and implementation of the common Information for the province. Together these initiatives will significantly modernize and streamline the documentation necessary for criminal cases entering our court.

We are also looking forward to having more wifi and video technology in our courthouses and expanded video access by defence counsel to clients in correctional facilities.

I am once again extremely proud of the Ontario Court of Justice’s efforts to work collaboratively to enhance timely and meaningful justice services for the public.

I look forward to working together over the year ahead.

Thank you.