The Rules of Civil Procedure set out the procedural steps that apply to civil law matters at the Superior Court of Justice and the Court of Appeal for Ontario. The Rules of the Small Claims Court set out the procedural steps that apply in the Small Claims Court. Each set of rules has the status of a regulation under the Courts of Justice Act and is published on the Ontario e-Laws website.
The Civil Rules Committee makes changes to these two sets of rules, subject to the approval of the Attorney General.
The aim of the Committee is to make changes to the rules that enhance access to justice for the benefit of users of the civil justice system.
Section 66 of the Courts of Justice Act sets out the subject matter over which the Committee has authority to make rules.
The Committee meets regularly throughout the year to consider proposals from judges, lawyers, and members of the public for rule changes. The Committee often consults with members of the bar, justice sector stakeholders, and the public on potential rule changes.
The Civil Rules Committee is not part of the Ministry of the Attorney General.
The members of the Committee are set out in section 65 of the Courts of Justice Act.
Under section 65 of the Courts of Justice Act, the Committee is chaired by the Chief Justice of Ontario or another member designated by the Chief Justice. The Honourable Justice Kathryn Feldman of the Court of Appeal for Ontario is the current Chair of the Committee, as designated by the Chief Justice. The Chair leads the Committee in its work, including prioritizing issues for consideration by the Committee and facilitating all Committee meetings.
Shannon Chace, the Court of Appeal for Ontario’s Executive Legal Officer, is the Secretary of the Committee. The Secretary is responsible for the overall operations of the Committee. The Secretary is not a member of the Committee and does not participate in votes of the Committee.
The Civil Rules Committee’s membership includes members of the judiciary, Ministry of the Attorney General management and counsel, and private sector lawyers. Each member is appointed to the Committee by one of the Chief Justices, the Attorney General or the Law Society of Ontario. The membership is listed below, at Part H.
Most members hold their position for three years and are eligible for reappointment. Members volunteer their time to the Committee. Members review, consider, and vote on proposals and other issues raised at meetings. Members may consult with the constituencies they represent about issues before the Committee. Members may also make proposals to the Committee for rule amendments.
In addition, members often provide their time and expertise by participating in subcommittees struck to consider particular issues.
The work of the Committee is supported by a Secretariat, which is composed of four lawyers appointed by the Chair – three civil litigators from the private bar and a lawyer from the Ministry. The Secretariat members are not members of the Committee and do not participate in votes of the Committee. The members are listed below, at Part I.
The Secretariat’s work is primarily directed by the Secretary on behalf of the Chair. The Secretariat provides research support and background materials for the Committee to assist with proposals where the complexity warrants their expert analysis. In addition, the Secretariat may identify and pursue areas of interest, and advance their own proposals for the Committee’s consideration.
The Committee typically meets four times a year, or more often if necessary.
The Secretary, in consultation and collaboration with the Chair and the Secretariat, sets the Committee’s meeting agenda. Standing items on the agenda include: the Chair’s report, approval of the minutes of the previous meeting, the Secretary’s report, and reports from the standing and ad hoc subcommittees.
At each meeting, the Committee also considers proposals for rule changes. Anyone, including legal professionals and members of the public, can write to the Secretary of the Committee to suggest a rule change. See Part E below on how to propose a rule change.
The Chair and Secretary review all proposals and have discretion to determine whether a proposal should be considered by the Committee and placed on a meeting agenda and, if so, the timing for such consideration. The Chair and Secretary also triage proposals for urgency and assess, in consultation with the Secretariat, whether Secretariat review is required.
Where a proposal merits consideration but is not urgent and has some complexity, it may be placed on the agenda of a subsequent meeting. The Chair and Secretary may determine that Secretariat review and analysis is required before the proposal may be placed on an agenda for consideration by the Committee.
The Chair and Secretary may also ask a standing subcommittee to consider a proposal for a rule change or strike an ad hoc subcommittee to consider a proposal. . Subcommittees may be struck where the proposal is complex, requires extensive deliberation or special expertise. Subcommittees’ mandates differ, but they frequently engage in formal consultations with bar constituencies. For a list of current subcommittees, please see Part D, below.
Where a determination is made that a particular issue does not require consideration by the Committee, the Chair will provide the Committee with a description of the proposal and the rationale for not considering the proposal. All other proposals are considered and voted on by the Committee.
Deliberations of the Committee and materials prepared by or for the Committee are confidential.
Regulations amending the Rules of Civil Procedure and Rules of the Small Claims Court are made by the Committee and must then be approved by the Attorney General.
The amending regulations are viewable on the Ontario e-Laws website upon filing. Amended court forms are viewable on the Court Services Division court forms website upon the filing of a regulation amending the forms. Notices of the amending regulations are published on the Ontario Regulatory Registry website.
The Committee’s work is supported by both standing and ad hoc subcommittees. The Chair of each subcommittee is appointed by the Chair of the Committee.
Generally, subcommittees include representation from the judiciary, the bar, the Ministry and other appropriate constituencies. The Committee Chair and relevant Subcommittee Chair will jointly determine the appropriate composition of each subcommittee, taking into account the implications of the issues for justice sector stakeholders. The members may be drawn from both the Committee membership and, if necessary, broader stakeholder constituencies; they are selected for their interest and expertise in the Subcommittee’s mandate.
Standing subcommittees may be established to study and propose amendments to particular rules and issues on an ongoing and long-term basis.
The Estates Subcommittee supports the Committee by analyzing and advising on proposals to amend the estate court rules and forms (Rules 74 to 75.2 of the Rules of Civil Procedure). The Subcommittee develops proposals and potential amendments to the estate court rules and forms to streamline estate court processes, improve access to justice and align the estate court rules with broader legislative reforms.
The Artificial Intelligence Subcommittee is in the process of being constituted and will support the Committee by analyzing and advising on proposals with respect to the use of artificial intelligence and technology in the litigation process.
Ad hoc subcommittees may be established to consider and address specific proposals or areas of concern, as directed by the Chair. Ad hoc subcommittees contribute to the Committee’s capacity to fulfill its mandate, by allowing for greater group deliberation and/or enhanced expertise on issues of particular urgency or complexity.
Pursuant to section 66(4) of the Courts of Justice Act, the Committee is required to review the discount rate, gross-up rate, and prejudgment interest rate for non-pecuniary damages at least once every four years. To assist in fulfilling this mandate, the Committee strikes an ad hoc Discount Rate Subcommittee on a periodic basis.
The most recent Discount Rate Subcommittee was struck by the Committee in May 2017 and tabled its final report at the Civil Rules Committee meeting held on May 20, 2021: Report to the Civil Rules Committee on rules 53.09 and 53.10 (final). The Committee voted to adopt the recommendations in the report and submitted the report to the Attorney General.
For reference, a copy of the Discount Rate Subcommittee’s interim report, dated April 27, 2020, is also available: Report to the Civil Rules Committee on rules 53.09 and 53.10 (interim).
The mandate of the Rule 7 Subcommittee is to review Rule 7 of the Rules of Civil Procedure (Parties under Disability), to address issues identified in the case law and consider the adequacy of procedural safeguards to protect the interests of minors, mentally incapable adults, and absentees, alongside the integrity of the justice system for all participants, including the court and its resources.
The mandate of the Rule 34 Subcommittee is to consider potential amendments to Rule 34 (Procedure on Oral Examinations), including consideration of the consent-based procedure to arrange for out-of-court examinations; the time and expense of motions to resolve disputes respecting out-of-court examinations; the procedure to resolve objections and the method of attendance (rule 1.08); and the examination process for examinees residing outside Ontario.
The mandate of the Bifurcation Subcommittee is to consider potential amendments to Rule 6.1 (Separate Hearings) respecting the availability of bifurcation of trials.
The mandate of the Partial Settlement Subcommittee is to consider whether a new rule should be added to the Rules of Civil Procedure to codify common law obligations respecting disclosure of partial settlements in certain situations.
The mandate of the Refusals Motions Subcommittee is to consider eliminating Rule 34.12(3), which allows for a motion to rule on the propriety of a question that is objected to and not answered in an oral examination.
Proposals for rule changes may be sent to the Secretary of the Committee at: CRC.Secretary@ontario.ca.
All proposals should specify:
It is also helpful for the proposal to include a suggested solution to the issue identified.
Persons who put forward proposals will be advised of the outcome of their proposal. Depending on the urgency and other priorities of the Committee, proposals may take some time to be considered.
Effective January 30, 2023, the Committee introduced certificates of service for use by legal professionals as an alternative to affidavits of service in the Rules of Civil Procedure and the Rules of Small Claims Court. Certificates of service, which are available to lawyers in the Superior Court of Justice and Court of Appeal and to both lawyers and paralegals in the Small Claims Court, need not be commissioned, saving costs and resources.
Effective April 1, 2021, May 28, 2021, January 1, 2022, July 1, 2022, and July 6, 2023 the Committee, supported by the Estates Subcommittee, introduced a series of amendments to simplify and streamline the court process for probate applications.
Effective March 31, 2022, the Committee made amendments regarding the service of experts’ reports, the scheduling of pre-trial conferences, the test for leave to admit evidence at trial, and other related provisions to reduce the number of adjourned trials.
Effective March 23, 2020, January 1, 2021, March 1, 2021, and May 24, 2021, the Committee introduced a number of amendments to the Rules of Civil Procedure and Rules of the Small Claims Court to facilitate the use of electronic processes for filing and issuance of documents, signatures, and service.
See Part J, below, for a full list of civil court rule changes made by the Committee since 2020.
In response to letters received from the President of the Advocates’ Society to Chief Justice Tulloch and Justice Feldman as Chair of the Committee with respect to delay in the civil justice system, please see the joint responding letter from Chief Justice Tulloch and Justice Feldman.
Congratulations to former Committee member, Justice Jennifer Bezaire, on her recent appointment to the Superior Court of Justice.
 The Family Law Rules are the responsibility of the Family Rules Committee.