Ontario Unveils Plans to Accelerate Access to the Justice System
March 11, 2021
TORONTO — The Ontario government has announced a new multi-year plan to speed up access to the justice system. Justice Accelerated is a groundbreaking strategy that will build a more accessible, responsive and resilient justice system. The strategy includes a new investment of $28.5 million for a digital case management system to help reduce delays and backlogs at tribunals. The plan also includes moving more services online and expanding remote hearing technology to more courtrooms across the province. "New thinking and swift action over the past year have produced breakthroughs that prove we can better meet people's expectations for how justice can be done, and we are not turning back," said Attorney General Doug Downey. "The Justice Accelerated Strategy is the next chapter in our work to break down barriers in the justice system and speed up access to services. We are determined to continue demonstrating, through persistent innovation and collaboration, that justice accelerated is justice delivered." COVID-19 compounded longstanding challenges that cause delays for individuals and families across a justice system that has been neglected and falling behind for decades. The Justice Accelerated Strategy will help establish new and innovative ways of delivering services, including:
Creating a seamless end-to-end client-focused justice experience through key investments in new technology, an overhaul of court procedure and processes and substantive modernization of Ontario's tribunal system through investment in a new case management and dispute resolution system for matters before tribunals under Tribunal Ontario. This will help resolve matters quicker and help address backlogs.
Developing the 'courthouses of the future' as modern, technologically enabled community justice hubs with state-of-the-art justice services for in-person appearances, including opportunities for self-service and upgraded security and accessibility measures.
Transforming access to justice for Indigenous communities and our most vulnerable by addressing systemic barriers to access justice, as well as leveraging technology to provide faster and seamless access to services for victims and self-represented litigants.
Driving innovation as no other government has done by engaging directly with innovators, entrepreneurs and tech experts to contribute directly to answering some of our biggest challenges and informing how we can redesign and transform how Ontario delivers justice.
"The matters heard at tribunals touch Ontarians' lives in many ways, and this new case management system will help advance our commitment to fair and accessible dispute resolution in a more user-friendly manner," said Tribunals Ontario Executive Chair Sean Weir. "As demands on Ontario's tribunals continue to evolve and escalate, this ambitious innovation will help reduce wait times and address the current case backlogs for the thousands of people who rely on tribunals to resolve their disputes each year." "Ontarians should be able to count on accessible, responsible and resilient justice services no matter where they live in our province, including in rural, Northern and Indigenous communities," said Attorney General Downey. "Justice Accelerated is about expanding our collaboration with justice partners to develop easier and faster access to courts, tribunals and justice services that works for everyone." "Making our justice system more accessible, responsive and resilient through digital innovation is a central component of our Ontario Onwards Action Plan. Initiatives like the Justice Accelerated Strategy will make it easier for people to access our justice system in a timely manner," said Peter Bethlenfalvy, President of the Treasury Board, Minister of Finance, and Minister Responsible for Digital and Data Transformation. "By strengthening our digital justice infrastructure we're ensuring swift, safe and secure access to critical justice services and moving Ontario onwards now and into the future."
In February, the government introduced the Accelerating Access to Justice Act, 2021. If passed, it will build on other modernization initiatives by helping fill judicial vacancies more quickly and permanently allowing the virtual witnessing of wills and powers of attorney.
The Justice Accelerated Strategy builds on many advancements introduced over the last several months, including the expansion of online court filings through the Justice Services Online platform, updated Small Claims Court processes and modernized civil court procedures.
Since March 2020, the government, in collaboration with the judiciary, has provided courts with the necessary technology to enable remote hearings in 275 courtrooms.
The Justice Accelerated Strategy is part of Ontario Onwards: Ontario's COVID-19 Action Plan for a People-Focused Government.
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