Opening of the Courts brings together Ontario’s justice community
Ontario’s annual Opening of the Courts celebration was marked this year by a strong commitment from the courts, the government, and the Law Society to continue their collaborative efforts to modernize and reform the province’s justice system for the benefit of all Ontarians with legal needs.
Chief Justice of Ontario George Strathy presided over the ceremony, held at the Superior Court of Justice in Toronto, with Chief Justice Heather Smith and Chief Justice Lise Maisonneuve.
“Whether we are judges or other judicial officers, lawyers, paralegals, law enforcement agents, legislators or public servants,” Chief Justice Strathy said, “this ceremony reminds us that we share a common responsibility to promote the rule of law, to improve the administration of justice and to assist those who seek justice.”
The Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, noted that this year marks the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, giving an extra meaning to this year’s Opening of the Courts in the continuing evolution of the rule of law. She encouraged all those with a role in supporting the administration of justice to strive to uphold the principles of the Magna Carta.
The Honourable Madeleine Meilleur, Attorney General of Ontario, pledged to continue the enhancements to access to justice that the government has been pursuing through the Better Justice Together initiatives. She made particular note of the access to justice in French pilot project in Ottawa, increased legal aid funding, and the expansion of e-filing for small claims court.
Chief Justice Heather Smith and Chief Justice Lise Maisonneuve outlined the priorities and new initiatives their respective courts will take to modernize, simplify and streamline processes in the continuing drive to improve access to justice.
Law Society Treasurer Janet Minor commended the courts and the government for their ongoing commitment to substantive reforms and their demonstrated ability to work together in pursuit of common goals.
Treasurer Minor also touched on a number of Law Society initiatives and partnerships with the same goal of enhancing access to justice for Ontarians. “We have had a very active year facilitating the work of TAG – The Action Group on Access to Justice,” said Treasurer Minor. “TAG is a forum for justice system participants – the courts, government, legal- and community-based organizations — to share ideas and collaborate on solutions to access to justice challenges, and it is supported by the Law Foundation of Ontario.”
The Treasurer also described the Law Society’s continuing outreach to Aboriginal communities, and the role the Law Society may play in supporting the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
She noted a joint initiative with the French Language Services Commissioner and pledged support for the courts’ pilot of seamless French language services in Ottawa. In addition, she spoke about the Law Society’s Mental Health and Wellness Task Force, which was recently established, to develop a more focused and proactive approach to wellness, mental health and addictions issues and to foster wellness in the professions.