2010 Opening of the Courts Ceremony
Your Honour, Chief Justice Winkler, Chief Justice Smith, Chief Justice Bonkalo, Chief Justices, Regional Senior Judges, Regional Senior Justices of the Peace, members of the Judiciary, Minister of Justice and Attorney General for Canada Nicholson, Madame Treasurer, distinguished colleagues from the Bar and the Legislature, representatives of the Chiefs of Police, honoured guests, all.
À nos partenaires du secteur de la justice, je tiens à exprimer, à chacun d'entre vous, mes remerciements pour votre dévouement et votre contribution au quotidien au système de justice.
[To every one of our justice partners, I would like to thank you for your dedication and the contribution you make every single day to the justice system.]
I particularly want to thank my colleagues at the Ministry of the Attorney General, and my Deputy Murray Segal, for the great work and support that they provide every single day.
Our system of justice is the best in the world and a proof of that is every single day, people come to Canada and to Ontario from all over the world.
They come for many reasons, but they come first and foremost knowing that their rights and their freedoms will be protected and respected here in ways they might not be elsewhere.
But saying that, saying that does not in any way diminish our determination, to continually improve our system of justice.
It is that collective dedication to excellence that has long been a hallmark of our system of justice, and yes, the collaborative working relationship between the ministry, the judiciary, all justice participants is extremely important to the success of justice in Ontario and to its improvement.
Our system of justice must reflect the society that we serve.
It must be as fast, as effective, as affordable as the people in this province need it to be.
How it delivers practical improvements to the working lives of Ontarians is a very real measure of its success, and there are many examples of those improvements. Let me just provide a few:
January 1, 2010 saw the new civil rules come into force as has been noted that the jurisdiction for example in the Small Claims Court has been increased to $25,000. A practical simple way to have the disputes resolved with much less expense or complexity. I want to repeat the thanks that I made last year to Chief Justice Winkler, Associate Chief Justice O'Connor, Justice Osborne and the members of the Bar and of course Chief Justice Smith, whose Bar is now implementing, whose judiciary are now implementing, these very important changes.
Justice on Target is our initiative to reduce the unnecessary appearances in the criminal courts. It will reduce by 2012. It will prevent 500,000 accused from having to come to court every year simply to adjourn their criminal case from one day to the next. And that will free up courtrooms, resources and time that can be devoted to those cases and issues that better require them.
I want to thank Chief Justice Bonkalo, Associate Chief Justice Griffiths, Justice Durno, Chief Justice Smith, Stephen Rhodes, Ken Anthony and all of the justice participants throughout the province of Ontario for implementing this initiative, and more importantly, bringing it to life.
It's underway in almost every court and the early results are encouraging. For the first time in 18 years, the average number of appearances for the average criminal case in the Ontario Court of Justice went down instead of up.
That's a good start.
Family law touches so many and it can be a very difficult, emotional and costly. Collectively we're working to make it less so.
The legislative improvements we recently passed are being brought to life and being implemented through the hard work of Justice Epstein and the Rules Committee. One example, the protections for women and children in particular through the restraining order regime are now in force. After a decade of discussion, we have greater protection.
We recently launched the four pillars of family law reform.
Chief Justice Smith has specifically mentioned that as has Chief Justice Bonkalo. Upfront, mandatory information, is already in Brampton and Milton with many more I expect to come. Better access to legal advice and non-confrontational ways of resolving disputes, better issue identification, and yes, over time a less complex court process for those who require it.
Special thanks to Chief Justice Smith, Justice Hatton, Chief Justice Bonkalo, and the members of the Bar who have advocated for so long, and who are bringing this to life throughout the province.
Legal aid, with its support for the most vulnerable, saw its largest funding increase in history last year and those funds are now flowing with the good advice and direction not only of legal aid but the members of the Bar who implement the spirit of legal aid every single day.
I recently attended an Aboriginal cleansing ceremony for the new court house in Thunder Bay. There is more work that must be done to make sure our system of justice and our approach to it is as inclusive as it needs to be.
And yes, I have heard the call and although we have been engaged in new court houses such as Durham, Kitchener-Waterloo, Quinte, Toronto West, St. Thomas and Sioux Lookout - and more are being renovated across the province - there is more to do in this and many other areas and with your great collaboration and assistance I say to all here that we're going to do it and I look forward to the year ahead.
Thank you very much.