As we start the new year with hope for an emergence from COVID-19 in 2021, we are witnessing rapid changes to the justice system.
The challenges posed to our justice system by the pandemic, and the courts’ response to those challenges, have been a central feature of our lives this past year and will continue into 2021.
But as we look ahead, we see that long-delayed reforms are now underway, with the support of the Chief Justices of the Ontario Court of Justice, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice and the Court of Appeal for Ontario.
At the end of 2020, I interviewed Chief Justice Lise Maisonneuve of the Ontario Court of Justice, Chief Justice Geoffrey B. Morawetz of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice and Chief Justice George R. Strathy of the Court of Appeal for Ontario.
The Chief Justices looked back to the early days of the pandemic and described how quickly the challenge of the COVID-19 crisis descended on our institutions, and recounted the urgent response required by the courts in the initial stages of the pandemic.
In our interviews, the Chief Justices provide updates on current court operations and challenges the courts are currently facing.
Then we look ahead and discuss the future of the justice system in Ontario. Our profession is changing. Court modernization spurred by the pandemic offers real benefits in efficiency, reduced costs and, it is hoped, greater access to justice. But as with all changes, there are risks as well as benefits. The Chief Justices discuss the risk of change, and how to ensure that change benefits all Ontarians, not just those with access to the technology that will define our system going forward.
By way of brief introduction, Chief Justice Maisonneuve was appointed Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice in April 2015. Chief Justice Maisonneuve heads Canada’s largest Court, which hears over 200,000 criminal cases (almost 480,000 criminal charges), millions of provincial offences such as traffic tickets, and serves over 20,000 families in crisis annually. The Court sits in over 150 locations throughout the province. Prior to her appointment as Chief Justice, Her Honour was associate Chief Justice since 2013, and a judge of the Court from 2001-2013.
Chief Justice Morawetz was appointed to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in 2005. The Superior Court is the busiest superior court in Canada, with nearly 200,000 new matters commenced in the Superior Court each year. His Honour served as the court’s team leader of the Commercial List from 2010 to 2013, when he was appointed Regional Senior Justice for the Toronto region. In this role, he heard civil, commercial and Divisional Court matters. He was appointed Chief Justice of the Court on July 1, 2019.
Chief Justice Strathy was appointed to the Court of Appeal for Ontario on April 25, 2013, and was subsequently appointed as Chief Justice of Ontario and President of the Court of Appeal for Ontario on June 13, 2014. The Court of Appeal for Ontario hears some 1000 appeals and over 1000 motions each year.
From 2007-2013, Chief Justice Strathy served as a judge of the Superior Court of Justice in the Toronto Region, where he presided over civil, class action and criminal matters.
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