While involved in innumerable community activities, the Toronto Lawyers Association represents our members to the Ontario bench and bar, to all levels of government and to the public at large. We participate in charitable events, liaise with other professional lawyers' associations, provide educational mock trials at local public schools and sit on committees related to legal and courthouse issues. Learn more about our community action.
TLA Submissions re: The Definition of the Child under CLRA
The following is the submission of the Toronto Lawyers Association (“TLA) in response to the interest of the Ministry of the Attorney General (“MAG”) in hearing from stakeholders as to their views on whether the definition of “child” in the Children’s Law Reform Act (“CLRA”) should be amended to include “a person who is the age of majority or over and remains in the charge of their parents or other caregiver because of disability, medical condition or other reasons that make them unable to obtain the necessaries of life.”
TLA response to MAG, Hague Convention on Child Support
The Toronto Lawyers Association (“TLA”) is the voice of its 3,700 members who practice law in all disciplines across the City of Toronto. You have asked for our views on the proposal for the Province of Ontario to request that the Federal Government implement the Convention in Ontario once Bill C-78 comes into force on March 1, 2021 and to pass provincial legislation accordingly. The TLA strongly supports the ratification and implementation of the Convention.
TLA response to the Family Legal Service Provider Licence Consultation Paper
The Toronto Lawyers Association (“TLA”) wishes to provide the following comments on the recommendations contained in the Family Legal Service Provider License Consultation Paper (“the consultation paper”) authored by the Family Law Working Group of the Law Society of Ontario.
TLA response to MAG proposal to move to Mandatory Mediation and a One Judge Model
We understand that the Ministry of the Attorney General is interested in identifying reforms to Ontario’s civil justice system that would lead to the early resolution of civil disputes and increase access to justice in civil proceedings through the potential expansion of the Mandatory Mediation Program, and one judge model.
TLA response to LSO proposal to remove fee exemption for practitioners over 65 years of age
We understand that Convocation has passed a resolution for amendments in principle to By-law 5 to remove the exemption from payment of annual fees for licensees who are over 65 and who do not practice law or provide legal services, but who do provide pro bono legal services. The TLA does not agree that this exemption should be removed.
TLA Submission Re: Urgent need for funding for Legal Aid Ontario
I am writing to you as the President of the Toronto Lawyers Association to underscore Legal Aid Ontario’s (LAO) urgent need for funding due to a COVID-19 related economic downturn.
As you know, LAO receives funding not only from the federal and provincial governments, but also from the Law Foundation of Ontario.
TLA Submission to MAG Re: Virtual Commissioning Regulations
We are in receipt of MAG's "Proposal to establish a regulatory framework that enables virtual acts of commissioning", posted on July 14, 2020, and wish to offer some constructive feedback and comment upon the summary of proposal, with reference to specific statements in the proposal:
"Require the commissioner to verify the client's identity": To reduce needless formalities, regulations should include an express exception to verification of the client during the video conference if the commissioner (a) has previously identified the client and recognizes the client to be that person, and/or (b) the individual is personally known to the commissioner.
TLA Submissions RE: Possible Amendments to the Courts of Justice Act and Potential Elimination of Civil Jury Trials in Ontario
On the evening of June 5, 2020, the TLA received the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General’s letter to stakeholders regarding potential amendments to the Courts of Justice Act, including the potential elimination of some or all civil jury trials in Ontario, and seeking stakeholders’ responses by June 15, 2020.
We have received a copy of the letter from the Federation of Law Organizations to you, and agree with the concerns expressed in that letter. We encourage the Ministry to undertake a longer and more fulsome consultation process before the right to a civil jury trial is eliminated for any cause of action.
TLA submissions on ON SCHEDULE 4, SMARTER AND STRONGER JUSTICE ACT, 2020 – Amendments to the Class Proceedings Act, 1992
The Toronto Lawyers Association (TLA) is the voice of its 3,700 members who practice law in all disciplines across the Greater Toronto Area, including both plaintiff- and defence-side class action lawyers. The TLA has represented the interests of its lawyer members for over 130 years.
On December 9, 2019, the Attorney General of Ontario introduced Bill 161, the Smarter and Stronger Justice Act, 2019 (Bill 161) which, among other things, proposes many changes to the Ontario Class Proceedings Act, 1992 (“CPA”). Bill 161 has now passed Second Reading.
TLA submissions on the Smarter and Stronger Justice Act
The Toronto Lawyers’ Association (TLA) is the voice of its 3,700 members who practise law in all disciplines across the Greater Toronto Area.
The TLA has reviewed the Smarter and Stronger Justice Act, 2019 omnibus justice bill, introduced on December 9, 2019. The bill proposes many significant reforms to the justice system in Ontario, and will impact on both the delivery of, and access to legal services in the province. Accordingly, it is of significant concern to the TLA, its members, and the public we serve.
TLA response to “Putting Drivers First: $2M Catastrophic Impairment Default Benefit Limit” Consultation Paper
The TLA has had an opportunity to review and consider the Ontario Ministry of Finance’s “Putting Drivers First: $2M Catastrophic Impairment Default Benefit Limit” Consultation Paper and has provided the Ministry with the following feedback.
TLA response to “Putting Drivers First: Care, Not Cash” Consultation Paper
The TLA has had an opportunity to review and consider the Ontario Ministry of Finance’s “Putting Drivers First: Care, Not Cash” Consultation Paper and has provided the Ministry with the following feedback.
TLA response - Proposals for Family Law Reform
We recently had the opportunity to meet with senior members of your staff, and discussed with them several issues of concern to our constituents. Ranked high among those concerns is meaningful access to the courts for Ontarians involved in family law disputes.
TLA SUBMISSIONS TO LSO PROFESSIONAL REGULATION COMMITTEE
The Toronto Lawyers’ Association (TLA) is the voice of its 3,700 members who practise law in all disciplines across the Greater Toronto Area.
We are writing with respect to the Law Society of Ontario’s Call for Comment on proposed amendments to the pro bono rules in the Rules of Professional Conduct. In response to the two questions posed in the Professional Regulation Committee’s Consultation Report...
TLA responds to the LSO Access to Justice Consultation
Thank you for providing members of the legal profession with the opportunity to provide feedback to the Access to Justice Committee on the important issue of improving access to justice in Ontario, and particularly, the approach of the Law Society of Ontario (LSO or Law Society) to the same. The Toronto Lawyers’ Association (TLA) is the voice of its 3,700 members who practise law in all disciplines across the Greater Toronto Area. Below are our comments to the questions posed in the Committee’s Call for Comment.
TLA Response to the Ministry of the Attorney General re proposed change to the Juries Act - Juror Addresses on Jury Panel Lists
In response to a request for input, by the Ministry of the Attorney General regarding proposed changes to the Juries Act, the TLA submitted commentary on March 13, 2019. The submission expressed support for the proposed amendment removing the requirement that juror street addresses be included on jury panel lists for the purpose of heightening juror privacy/security.
TLA Response to the Ministry of the Attorney General re proposed Court Fee Changes
On February 13, 2019 the TLA responded to notification that the ministry is proposing court fee changes to bring some of its business lines closer to full cost recovery. The TLA response expressed concern regarding the short consultation period, the impact on access to justice for users of the system and the incompatibility with delays in the civil justice system.
TLA Response to Law Society Tribunal re Rules of Practice
On January 15, 2019 the TLA responded to the Law Society Tribunal's invitation for public commentary on the new draft Rules of Practice . While the TLA commended the LSO for revisiting and revising the Rules to better reflect the values of fairness, transparency, and timeliness, it did provide specific comments on:
- Requiring licensees to provide witness statements;
- Relaxing the rules regarding admission of evidence; and
- Dealing with licensees with mental health issues
TLA Intervenes in the Milne Appeal in Divisional Court
On Tuesday December 11, 2018 the TLA was well-represented by Ian Hull and Tim Youdan, who intervened in the Milne Appeal. It was heard by Justices Morocco, Swinton and Sachs in a packed Osgoode Hall courtroom.
Our counsel stressed the importance of a judgment that will give clear direction to the Ontario bar (including the TLA’s hundreds of members who practise in the Estates and Trusts area) and their clients and other members of the public.
The Court heard from our counsel about the need to clarify the validity of using allocation clauses in multiple wills. The use of an "allocation clause" that allows an Estate Trustee to have some form of control over whether a particular asset is governed by the Primary Will or the Secondary Will is a common estate planning technique. Privacy, speed of administration and reduced taxes payable under the Estate Administration Tax Act, 1998 are significant advantages for many testators who contemporaneously execute more than one will.
Our counsel submitted that, contrary to the Applications Judge’s finding, an estate trustee has inherent discretionary power to allocate assets between a will that is filed for probate and one that passes assets without probate.
The TLA heartily thanks Ian Hull, Tim Youdan and their crack team at Hull and Hull and Davies for excellent advocacy. We look forward to the Court’s judgment.
Pro Bono Law Ontario closing Law Help Centres
The Toronto Lawyers Association is deeply concerned by recent news that Pro Bono Law Ontario will be closing its Law Help Centres in both Toronto and Ottawa and encourages the Ontario government to assist with the stable funding needs of the program. The TLA Board has written to The Hon. Caroline Mulroney, Attorney General for Ontario regarding the planned closure of Pro Bono Ontario’s Court-Based Services for Unrepresented Litigants.
The Law Help Centres are staffed by volunteer lawyers who assist self-represented persons navigate the civil court system and provide access to justice to those persons who would not otherwise have the means to do so. The Law Help Centres slated to be closed in Toronto on December 14, 2018 are located at 47 Sheppard Avenue East (Small Claims Court) and 393 University Avenue (Ontario Superior Court).
The Law Help Centres have been faced with increasing demand and last year served more than 25,000 unrepresented clients while providing much needed relief to the courts. In the absence of the Law Help Centres, self-represented persons will be required to increasingly lean on the courts while consuming precious court time within a system already strained and faced with delays.
As reported by the Canadian Lawyer, a U.S. consulting firm has determined that Pro Bono Ontario’s services provide a $10 return for every dollar invested. In consideration of both the financial impact and the increased strain on the Ontario Justice system the Toronto Lawyers Association strongly encourages the Ontario government to address the stable funding needs required to support the Pro Bono Law Ontario Help Centres.
A GoFundMe campaign has been launched in an attempt to raise $500,000 to save Pro Bono Law Help Centres in Toronto and Ottawa.
Youth Criminal Justice
TLA continues to advocate against the planned move of Youth Court to the new OCJ Court House on Centre Avenue. TLA Director, Robin McKechney is quoted in the October 29th Toronto Star speaking on behalf of TLA.
“The fact that they are combined in other parts of the city and other parts of Ontario doesn’t mean that that’s the right thing to do,” said lawyer Robin McKechney, a member of the board of directors of the Toronto Lawyers Association. “311 Jarvis, first of all, has the potential to accommodate the other youth satellite courts (in the city), and even if the decision was made not to combine the youth court in one spot, closing this facility, which is quite frankly known around the country and the continent for its programs, is short-sighted.”
TLA Response to the Options for Lawyer Licensing - Consultation Paper
October 25, 2018 - The TLA continues to consider Articling to be an effective and important educational tool in our existing licensing regime. While it is not a perfect system, it is a valuable one that should be maintained, with some enhancements. For the reasons discussed in the submission, the TLA supports Option #2, Current Model with Enhancements, as outlined in the Consultation Paper.
TLA Submission to LSO re Options for Enhanced Governance Effectiveness
October 12, 2018 - In response to the Call for Comment by the Law Society's Governance Task Force, the TLA expressed support of a more streamlined governance, and commented specifically on the categories of board size and composition, Treasurer's term, Benchers' terms and terminology.
TLA Response to Ford's Criticism of Justice Belobaba
The Toronto Lawyers Association (TLA) wishes to express its dismay over the recent remarks of Premier Doug Ford regarding the Honourable Justice Belobaba’s ruling on the unconstitutionality of Bill 5.
On September 10, 2018, Justice Belobaba rendered his decision on Bill 5, the Better Local Government Act, declaring it contrary to section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In response to this ruling against his government, Premier Ford criticised Justice Belobaba for having the audacity to “ shut down” his “ democratically elected government” given that His Honour was merely “ appointed” and not “ elected.” Premier Ford further expressed concern that the judiciary would continue to interfere with his “ decisions in changing the laws to make this province better,” describing it as “ scary” and “ disturbing.”
Even more disparaging were Premier Ford’s remarks implying that Justice Belobaba had political motives for striking down Bill 5. By claiming that Justice Belobaba was appointed by former Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty and highlighting the court’s alleged deficiency in holding the former Liberal government accountable, Premier Ford threatens a basic tenet of our legal system: judicial independence. In fact, this diatribe is, among other things, factually incorrect. Superior Court judges are appointed by the federal government; Justice Belobaba himself was appointed on May 5, 2005 by then Prime Minister Paul Martin.
Premier Ford is unquestionably entitled to disagree with the rulings of the judiciary just as he is empowered to seek appellate review of these decisions. The recent ruling by the Court of Appeal is proof that the Courts can be rapid, efficient and impartial.
The Premier went well over the line, in denigrating the authority and ability of the courts to independently review the constitutionality of executive orders. His comments are directly at odds with the respect for the judiciary which ought to inform all elected officials.
In addition to using inappropriate and unacceptable language to ridicule the judiciary, Premier Ford also demonstrated a lack of respect for the principal safeguards of Canadian citizens’ rights. By claiming that he was “sitting here handcuffed with a piece of tape over my mouth, watching what I say,” Premier Ford misapprehends the primary objective of the rule of law and the Constitution itself, namely to constrain the arbitrary and unfair exercise of power. Judicial independence is fundamental to maintaining the rule of law, which is, in turn, integral to the existence of democracy.
The Toronto Lawyers Association deplores any words by a democratically elected leader which vilify or belittle the authority of the courts and the role of the judiciary in safeguarding the rights of all Canadians.
Youth Criminal Justice
Update May 23 rd: “ From our point of view, all of the bails — and bails have always taken place in the context of a provincial courthouse — will be hived off to the old 2201 building…and we have real concerns about that from a whole series of bases ,” TLA President Dirk Derstine tells the Lawyers Daily* in a recent interview.
Read the full article on recent stakeholder response to the new mega courthouse.
*This article was originally published by The Lawyer’s Daily ( www.thelawyersdaily.ca), part of LexisNexis Canada Inc.
Update May 17th: " Mixing youths and adults accused of crimes at a new downtown courthouse could expose minors to exploitation" , TLA President Dirk Derstine tells AdvocateDaily.com in a recent interview.
Derstine, a criminal lawyer who recently assumed the presidency of the TLA, says one of his priorities in the role concerns the “mega-courthouse” planned for downtown Toronto. With a tentative completion date of 2021, the $1-billion courthouse slated for Armoury Street is due to consolidate most of the city’s criminal courts, including the dedicated youth court, currently housed at 311 Jarvis St. But Derstine says a site designed for adults is no place for children as young as 12 to appear when accused of crimes.
“ The TLA believes that youths should not be treated as if they were adults, and in fact, the Criminal Code mandates that they are not, ” he says.
The TLA has been raising concerns about the new Toronto mega-courthouse being built on Armoury St. for several months. The TLA has been involved in lobbying the provincial government on several issues regarding the courthouse, most notably the inclusion of youth within the new courthouse.
Peacebuilders, a non-profit organization in Toronto that provides restorative justice and court-diversion programs to young people in conflict with the law, and the TLA recently organized a Community Forum to discuss the ramifications of the slated closure of the youth courthouse at 311 Jarvis when the new courthouse opens. Several community organizations spoke at the Forum including: John Howard Society of Toronto, Justice for Children and Youth, the Zero Gun Violence Movement and the Cross-Over Youth Project. All speakers unanimously called on the government to reverse its decision to close the specialty youth courthouse.
The Honourable R. Roy McMurtry, former attorney general and chief justice of Ontario and Eva E. Marszewski, the founder of Peacebuilders, have written an opinion piece in the Toronto Star.
The TLA urges its members to speak out on this issue to:
The Minister of the Attorney General
Hon. Yasir Naqvi, Attorney General
The Minister of Children and Youth Services
Hon. Michael Coteau, Minister of Children and Youth Services
Join the TLA and make your voice heard to ensure that the justice system in Toronto is one that works for all Torontonians.
TLA responds to CBC Interview: "More Canadians are acting as their own lawyer because they don't have a choice"
On March 25, 2018, CBC journalist Michael Enright, hosted guest Professor Julie MacFarlane of the University of Windsor and founder of the National Self-Represented Litigants Project (NSRLP). The discussion was: "More Canadians are acting as their own lawyer because they don't have a choice”.
The interview addressed the issue of access to justice to our legal system and, in particular, the family law courts. These are issues of great concern to the Toronto Lawyers Association. In response to the interview, the TLA sent a letter to Michael Enright .
An Open Letter to the LSO Treasurer re: Statement of Principles
As the Law Society moves forward to implement the recommendations approved by Convocation Equality, Diversity and Inclusion initiative, lawyers are now required to adopt and abide by a Statement of Principles. With the recent release of the Guide to the Application of Recommendation 3(1), the TLA felt compelled to submit a letter on behalf of its membership, expressing support for the overall initiative but also calling for more transparency and consultation with stakeholders on the road ahead.
The TLA responds to criticism of the appointment of the Honourable Justice Norris
The Toronto Lawyers Association wishes to express its support for the appointment of The Honourable Justice John Norris to the Federal Court of Canada. Justice Norris was an ornament to the bar and will be an ornament to the Court. There has been some criticism of his appointment. This criticism has largely centred on his successful representation of notorious defendants. The strong defence of the unpopular is a hallmark not only of good advocacy, but of the very reason the legal system exists. If the law cannot provide a mechanism for all to seek justice, then the legal system has failed in one of its fundamental mandates. Lawyers who defend the notorious will always be subject to criticism. That criticism must be met head on with the simple truth that those who defend the unpopular are acting in the very best traditions of the bar. They deserve praise, not condemnation. This is amply true of Justice Norris.
Melanie Manchee, TLA President
Contingency Fee Arrangements
In response to the Law Society's " Call for Comment: Contingency Fee Arrangements " of June 29, 2017, TLA tabled its submission on September 29, 2017.
Dialogue on Licensing
In response to the Law Society's call for submissions on the Dialogue on Licensing , TLA tabled its submission on September 15, 2017. The submission covered such issues as: concerns regarding the rising trend in number of licencees; the examination process; the articling process; the current NCA program; and the threshold for entry level competence.
Family Legal Services Report - Request for Feedback
Recommendations 4 and 5 of the Bonkalo Report suggest the expansion of paralegal practice with a specialized licence to act in matters of child custody & access, child support, restraining orders, and enforcement up to, but not at, a trial, as well as simple divorce.
TLA was part of a group of family law associations responding to her report with a common voice in opposition to such expansion. TLA's own responding document is available here.
A group of lawyers put forward a motion for hearing at the Law Society AGM on May 10. Groups of interested lawyers supporting the motion and against Justice Bonkalo's recommendations as presented, arranged to be at the AGM to speak to the motion. Paralegals were also expected to attend to speak in support of Justice Bonkalo's report and against the motion. Those TLA members interested in family law were encouraged to attend and be identified as a TLA member and provide feedback.
TLA expresses concerns to Toronto Mayor's Office re New Courthouse
During 2017, TLA representatives attended several meetings with members of the Ministry of the Attorney general and other stakeholders,regarding plans for construction of a new courthouse on Armoury Street. Following these meetings, TLA contacted Mayor Tory's office to express concern over various issues including: traffic and parking congestion; the location of bail court; and plans to move the Youth Court from Jarivs Street to the new building. Read the letter to the Mayor's office.
TLA responds to "Improving Access to Justice for Families" Report
UPDATE: Read the March 20th press release from TLA President Melanie Manchee.
On December 31, 2016 Justice Bonkalo released her Family Services Review, Improving Access to Justice for Families: Making the Family Court System Easier to Navigate , that addresses the provision of legal services by persons other than lawyers. It made many recommendations for improvements to the system to provide better access to justice for litigants.
The report set out recommendations re: unbundled services, coaching and better administrative processes in the courthouse, which included suggestions the TLA supports. Of great concern to the TLA was the recommendations which suggest Ontario family law clients would be well served by having specialized licensed paralegals act independently for clients in matters of custody, simple child support, restraining orders, and simple divorce (if no property issues.)
While licenced paralegals provide competent legal services, in defined areas, and hold an important position in the justice system in Ontario, their training and experience can never provide them with the skill set lawyers have, to view the family law client’s issues in total. An issue as important as custody cannot be addressed without an examination of all circumstances of the family, including legal issues such as each parent’s overall financial position, including property and liabilities, mobility rights, past or potential domestic violence, effects of new partners and their family status, etc. A non lawyer legal representative may be trained in completing the documents necessary to seek a divorce, but may not know to advise a client of the consequences of the divorce, such as the limitation period for seeking equalization of net family property, entitlement to survivor benefits in pensions, and the loss of extended health coverage. Family law advice cannot be given in silo type responses to narrowly defined issues. Paralegals do not have the substantive legal knowledge to advise family law client about their rights and responsibilities. Such a status is likely to lead to disastrous results.
There is no doubt that the family law justice system is in crisis and requires major change. The first and most important step on this course of change is to fully implement the Unified Family Court across Ontario. There is no possible rationale to justify any further delay in this endeavour, after forty years have passed since the first such court opened in Hamilton. Rather than expand the role of lesser trained representatives for participants in the family law courts, the TLA supports expansion of mediation services.
The TLA believes Ontario family law clients deserve competent legal advice which addresses all issues, from lawyer licensees, in order to have real access to justice. The TLA urges the Ministry of the Attorney General and the Law Society of Upper Canada to reject any paralegal licence to practise in the area of family law.
The TLA invited members to participate in a discussion concerning the Bonkalo Report via a meeting that was held on Wednesday, April 5 at 5:00 p.m. in the TLA Boardroom, Room S206, 361 University Ave.
LSUC Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees Working Group
As part of its ongoing efforts to promote equity, diversity and inclusiveness in Ontario's legal profession, The Law Society of Upper Canada created the Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees Working Group (the “ Working Group”) in 2012 to identify the challenges faced by racialized lawyers and paralegals and consider strategies for enhanced inclusion at all career stages.
On Dec. 2, 2016, the Law Society approved the Working Group’s final report, entitled Working Together for Change: Strategies to Address Issues of Systemic Racism in the Legal Professions , with 13 recommendations to address issues of systemic racism in the legal professions. The Working Group, invited submissions from the public and the professions. The Toronto Lawyers Association responded with its submission of November 14, 2016. The Working Group’s final report and 13 recommendations were approved at Dec. 2, 2016 Convocation.
Letter to Minister Wilson-Raybould on Judicial Shortage
The Toronto Lawyers Association (TLA) commented that a crisis in the justice system is looming because of an "unprecedented" number of judicial shortages and is urging Federal Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould to take “immediate action."
" The current situation is verging on a crisis, as the civil justice system is unable to withstand the ongoing pressures exerted on it to the detriment of the public, the administration of justice and, indeed the Rule of Law, " TLA president Stephen Mullings wrote in a letter to Wilson-Raybould. He described the impact of the resulting judicial shortages as “disastrous to the effective administration of justice." Read the full letter here.
Pathways Pilot Project Evaluation and Enhancements to Licensing Report
As part of the Law Society’s priority to strengthen the licensing process, the Pathways Pilot Project was evaluated in a report that outlines a number of recommendations. The Pathways Pilot Project Evaluation and Enhancements to Licensing Report was presented to Convocation on September 22, 2016 and comment from the professions was sought. TLA provided comment in a letter to the Treasurer of October 19, 2016. Read the submission here.
The Professional Development and Competence Committee is now reviewing submissions. The Committee’s final report will be provided to and deliberated at Convocation on November 9, 2016. This Convocation will be webcast.
LSUC Consultation re Advertising and Fees
In response to concerns that have been expressed to the Law Society, the LSUC's Professional Regulation Committee struck a Working Group on Advertising and Fee Arrangements. The Working Group held preliminary consultations with a broad cross-section of the profession through a series of focus group sessions. The TLA participated in this process. The Working Group sought input from the profession with respect to a number of issues which were identified as potentially requiring a regulatory response. The issues include advertising and fees in real estate law and personal injury law, contingency fees and referral fees. Click here for a list of the specific issues. Click here for a link to the Professional Regulation Committee Report .
The TLA gathered input from its membership and submitted feedback to the Working Group on licensee advertising and fee arrangements via a letter from the President, Stephen Mullings. Read the submission here.
A message from the President of the TLA: Legal Aid threshold is woefully inadequate
Justice Ian Nordheimer’s recent ruling in the case of Tyrell Moodie broadcast to the outside world what litigants, lawyers, judges and governments have known for quite some time –the legal aid system, in particular the ‘poverty’ threshold to obtain legal aid, is woefully inadequate and out of line with the economic challenges facing accused persons in the province, specifically Toronto.
When Mr. Moodie made an application for state funding for a lawyer (also known as a Rowbotham application), Justice Nordheimer halted the trial of Tyrell Moodie on the basis that it was a “complex” case requiring counsel. “It is necessary for the applicant to have counsel in order to have a fair trial,” the judge wrote.
Mr. Moodie earned about $16,000 in the prior year, which made him ineligible for the legal aid funding threshold of about $12,000. In 2014, Statistics Canada considered an income of $24,328 as being the low income cut off for single person living in a metropolitan area. Mr. Moodie’s legal bills were projected to run about $11,000 (roughly 70% of his earnings) which prompted Judge Nordheimer’s ruling, including the following remark, “ It should be obvious to any outside observer that the income thresholds being used by Legal Aid Ontario do not bear any reasonable relationship to what constitutes poverty in this country”.
This ruling highlights the Government’s policies which have prevented robust legal aid funding for accused persons, making already vulnerable individuals even more so. The Toronto Lawyers Association has been well aware of the problems concerning legal aid funding. Past President Joseph Neuberger founded, and continues to Chair, the Toronto Lawyers Association Legal Aid Working Group. The TLA will make every effort to continue to work with Legal Aid Ontario, as well as the provincial and federal governments, to ensure a workable legal aid system is in place to provide high quality legal aid services within our communities, providing greater and more meaningful access to justice and thereby restoring confidence in the principle of the presumption of innocence.
Stephen A. Mullings
Toronto Lawyers Association
Call for Input on Compliance-Based Entity Regulation
The Law Society of Upper Canada put forth a proposal to institute compliance-based entity regulation of lawyers and paralegals premised upon the LSUC identifying practice management principles and goals and setting expectations in broad parameters. The LSUC will also take responsibility for providing the necessary tools to assist lawyers and paralegals in understanding, implementing and maintaining these principles and in meeting expectations. TLA submitted comment on the proposal to the Policy Secretariat of LSUC.
Proposed Revisions to Licensing Process for New Lawyers
TLA learned of the Law Society of Upper Canada's proposal to change the licensing process for new lawyers. The proposal outlines a reduction in time for the traditional articling duration as well as a reduction in the licensing examination hours. TLA responded to the proposal by requesting time to review the full details and consult with its membership.
Remuneration of Case Management Masters
TLA responded to the final report of the Case Management Remuneration Commission, expressing support for the conclusions that Case Management Masters should receive equal salary, pension and benefits to those paid to Provincial Court judges.
TLA Responds to the Joint AG/LSUC Launch of Family Legal Services Review
On February 9, 2016, the Ministry of the Attorney General announced that the Ontario Government and the Law Society of Upper Canada have launched a Family Legal Service Review to be headed by the former Chief Justice of the Ontario Court, the Honourable Justice Bonkalo. The purpose of the Review is to consider whether any, and if so, what legal services in family law matters might be provided by persons other than lawyers, for example, paralegals, law clerks or law students.
This Review comes in response to the urgent need to improve access to justice for Ontario families. In 2014 – 2015 over 57% of family law litigants did not have legal representation in court. It is undoubtedly time to consider alternative, accessible and affordable means of delivering family legal services, as the statistics show that the present system is not serving the interests of the public. The current court processes are complicated and cumbersome, and they can be intimidating or confusing to those who lack legal training and experience. Creating a system that is more accessible and less expensive is a challenging but laudatory objective.
The Toronto Lawyers Association looks forward to working with Justice Bonkalo on this important initiative. We will be responding to the AG’s request for input from the public, as well as meeting with, and making submissions to Justice Bonkalo. In its submissions, the TLA will emphasize the importance to the public of accessing competent and qualified legal services while at the same time ensuring individuals receive genuinely enhanced access to justice to resolve their family law disputes.
The Ministry of the Attorney General’s Consultation document Expanding Legal Services Options for Ontario Families is available for your review.
The Ministry’s News News Release, Province Seeking Feedback To Make Family Legal Services More Accessible: Honourable Justice Bonkalo to Lead Family Law Review , is also available.
Consultation on the Representation of Children under the Family Law Rules
The Toronto Lawyers Association has been invited to give input with respect to the serious issue of representation of children under the Family Law Rules. A copy of the TLA submission is available here.
Ontario Proposed Legislation for Street Checks Consultation
The Toronto Lawyers Association responded to the opportunity to comment on the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services consultation regarding Ontario’s Proposed Regulation for Street Checks.
A copy of the letter of comment is available here .
Safety in Cells at 361 University Courthouse
The Toronto Lawyers Association was apprised of some facts concerning the safety of prisoners and correctional officers at the 361 University Court House. In response, the TLA sent a letter to the Attorney General, the Hon. Madeleine Meilleur.
A copy of the letter is available here.
Courts of Justice Act (CJA)
The Civil Rules Committee is interested in hearing from stakeholders on the issue of whether to recommend an expansion to the definition of "health practitioner" under section 1OS of the Courts of Justice Act (CJA). This section of the CJA indicates that a court may order a party to an action to undergo a physical or mental examination by a "health practitioner" where the physical or mental condition of a party to a proceeding is in question. The current definition of "health practitioner" includes those licensed to practice medicine, dentistry or psychology. There is some concern that this definition may be too narrow and may limit the Court's ability to order examinations by other health professionals or qualified experts.
The Consultation Document is available here.
The Law Commission of Ontario (LCO)
TORONTO, June 26, 2014 — The Law Commission of Ontario (LCO) today released its Discussion Paper in its Legal Capacity, Decision-making and Guardianship project. The LCO encourages feedback from members of the public, including older adults and persons with disabilities, service providers, policy-makers, lawyers and advocates until Friday, October 17, 2014, as part of its public consultation process and expects to release a draft report and recommendations next year.
The opportunity to make decisions for ourselves is fundamental to our autonomy, our security and our conceptions of ourselves. Ontario has a relatively modern and sophisticated legal regime addressing situations where decisions are needed but decision-making abilities are at issue; nevertheless, stakeholders have identified this area of the law as a central priority for reconsideration and reform.
The TLA wrote to the Minister of Finance expressing the Association’s concerns over the draft legislation to overhaul the current automobile insurance system. In particular, the TLA expressed concern over the Bill’s proposed terms which would prevent an injured person from pursuing a SABS claim in court, even if the person was pursuing a court action for other losses arising from a motor vehicle accident. This would increase litigation costs and result in a multiplicity of proceedings.
The TLA’s letter to the Ministry of Finance can be viewed here .
Proposed Amendments Re The Law of Negligence
The TLA prepared a letter to the Director of Justice Policy Development at the Ministry of the Attorney General in response to the proposal by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario to amend the law of negligence. In the letter, the Association outlined its concerns with regards to the negative effect on access to justice for Ontarians.
Trinity Western University Proposed Law School
The TLA prepared a letter to the Treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada regarding the Federation of Law Societies' preliminary approval of a law school at Trinity Western University (TWU). In the letter, the Association urges the Law Society to consider all aspects of this issue with the utmost care, taking into consideration its overarching duties to protect the public and to uphold the Rule of Law; and in doing so, to ensure that all licensees meet the requisite standards of professional competence, professional conduct, and education standards expected of all lawyers admitted to the practice in Ontario.
Automobile Insurance Dispute Resolution System Review Submission
The Toronto Lawyers Association ("TLA”) was asked to comment on the current system for resolving automobile insurance disputes between claimants and insurers at the Financial Services Commission of Ontario ("FSCO”). The TLA believes that the review being performed by the Honorable Justice J. Douglas Cunningham is an important process to address the issues surrounding the mediation backlog and procedure followed by the FSCO.
TLA CPD Submission
The TLA has long supported mandatory CPD, while encouraging LSUC to retain a flexible approach for lawyers, coupled with a fair, clear, and straightforward accreditation process for CPD providers. The TLA made a submission to the LSUC on the Two-Year Review of the CPD Requirement based on feedback from the membership.
Paralegal Motion to LSUC re expanded scope of practice for May 8 AGM
A Paralegal Motion to the LSUC re expanded scope of practice will be discussed at the May 8, 2013 AGM. The motion refers to the Morris Report which was commissioned by the Attorney General of Ontario. The Morris Report is available on the Ministry of the Attorney General website which also contains further details about paralegal regulation in Ontario.
The Law Society has a Working Group which has been working on the implementation of the 11 recommendations set out in the Morris Report. Their report:
Paralegal Standing Committee Working Group's Progress Report on Matters Arising from the Five Year Review.