New Chief Justice launches legal season

Posted: 09/12/2014

Opening of Courts 2014Leaders from Ontario’s legal community, including Lieutenant Governor David C. Onley, Attorney General Madeleine Meilleur, as well as the newly sworn-in Chief Justice George R. Strathy, Chief Justice Heather Forster Smith, Chief Justice Annemarie E. Bonkalo, Treasurer Janet E. Minor and numerous stakeholder representatives gathered for the annual ceremony celebrating the Opening of the Courts.

Law Society Treasurer Janet E. Minor reflected on the occasion, acknowledging Sept. 9 as the eve of the 800th anniversary of the enactment of a founding legal document, the Magna Carta.

“The Magna Carta was not an end in itself, but a beginning,” she said. “Its promises, which no fair-minded person would disagree with, still present a challenge to those of us entrusted with the duty and the privilege of administering our justice system.

“The Opening of the Courts reflects a commitment that access to justice and the protection of rights and freedoms for all, still be honoured today.”

The ceremony was the first over which Chief Justice Strathy has presided.

In welcoming attendees, Chief Justice Strathy acknowledged that important changes to how legal services are made available lie ahead.

“This occasion reminds us that whether we are politicians, judges or other judicial officers, lawyers, paralegals, law enforcement agents, or court administrators, we have an individual and collective responsibility to serve the public and improve the administration of justice,” Chief Justice Strathy said.

“In my view, we must ask every court, every court office, every person responsible for the administration of justice to consider how their practices and procedures can be simplified, streamlined and made more user-friendly.

“And, we must also foster a culture where these changes can be implemented.”

To help facilitate discussion around what specific changes to the justice system will help Ontarians obtain legal services in a more timely and affordable way, the Law Society recently established The Action Group on Access to Justice (TAG).

Through the forum, TAG, representatives from the courts, the Ministry of the Attorney General, academia, legal organizations, lawyer and paralegal associations as well as service providers, are collaborating to build solutions.

Those who spoke at the ceremony, including the Attorney General and the Chief Justices, each expressed their enthusiasm for the opportunity to innovate; they are keen to make the legal system more accessible and to better serve the public.