The COVID-19 virus is a risk to all but specifically it targets and exposes the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. In the same way the pandemic has exposed our court system for what it is, an “elderly” system developed to service a 1970s population drowning in a media/web savvy 21st century. Our judicial and court leaders are struggling to make it work in an environment where failure is inevitable. The structure of our courts and the supports built around it are paper intensive and people intensive. They cannot adapt quickly to the fast-changing environment. This is not a criticism of our judicial leaders but a sad refrain for those who long ignored the need to upgrade technology and facilities.
Contrast this to the reaction of the bar, the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) providers and the Ontario Bar Association (and of course the many other professional organizations such as The Advocates’ Society, the York Region Law Association and others). Armed or immediately ready to upgrade, the bar and those named above have been able to quickly offer services to the public that the court system has not be able to do. The Ontario Bar Association for one has a multitude of platforms available to assist and has quickly responded to requests for information, roundtable discussions and webinars. Private mediators and arbitrators have readily adopted technology for teleconferences, Zoom, Webex and other meeting forums to continue resolving disputes despite court closures.