23 July 2013

Law Commission of Ontario Releases Report on Access to Justice

Today the Law Commission of Ontario has released an important new report, "Increasing Access to Family Justice through Comprehensive Entry Points and Inclusivity." The report provides an important assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the family law justice system in Ontario and the barriers faced by those who must proceed in court without the benefit of counsel, and makes a number of recommendations as to how the system could be reformed, including an multidisciplinary, holistic approach to family law problems.

Here's the summary from the Commission's press release on the report.
The family law system has been the subject of much comment in recent years and many reports recommending changes to the system. Since 2010, there have been reforms in relation to procedures to address domestic violence against women, provision of information, methods of resolving disputes other than the courts, changes in the courts and other efforts to improve the system. Yet persons facing family disputes still find the system complex and difficult to navigate. The LCO’s Final Report focuses on the initial stages of the system, notably the provision of information, ways of providing initial advice and the interrelationship of legal problems with other kinds of problems.  
The Report emphasizes the need for the system to respond to the evolving pluralist nature of Ontario’s population, and addresses how factors such as literacy levels, cognitive disabilities and, geographic location, among other characteristics, affect how easily people can access and use information, the affordability of legal representation and the degree to which legal problems are affected by other kinds of problems. It recommends the creation or enhancement of multidisciplinary, multifunctional centres or networks that link with “trusted intermediaries” such as cultural centres. “Tinkering with the family law system is not sufficient,” says LCO Board Chair Bruce Elman, “There needs to be comprehensive reform if it is to be made more accessible and effective for those who need it”.
This report adds to the growing number of reports calling for fundamental reform of the family law justice system and is well worth a read.