Ontario Launches Pilot to Strengthen Access to Justice in French
Project Will Help Make Justice Services More Accessible to French-Speaking Ontarians
Ontario is piloting an initiative in Ottawa to give French-speaking Ontarians timely and seamless access to French-language justice services.
A pilot project at the Ottawa courthouse, delivered in partnership with Ontario's chief justices, will help reduce potential challenges faced by French-speaking litigants, lawyers and other users of Ontario's courts by introducing:
- designated French-speaking counter service representatives
- acounter queuing system that electronically advises service representatives when a client selects a French-language service ticket
- legal information on French-language rights displayed on screens in the courthouse
- more signage promoting French-language services that are offered on-site
The project, which responds to a number of recommendations set out by the French Language Services Bench and Bar Advisory committee in its 2012 Access to Justice in French report and the French Language Services Commissioner's 2013-2014 Annual Report, will help Ontario identify best practices to enhance access to justice in French at court locations throughout the province.
Enhancing justice services for French-speaking Ontarians is part of the government's plan to build Ontario up. The four-part plan includes investing in people's talents and skills, making the largest investment in public infrastructure in Ontario's history, creating a dynamic and innovative environment where business thrives, and building a secure retirement savings plan.
- The pilot project is based on the concept of active offer, which means services in French are visible, available, accessible and publicized so French-speaking court users are aware of and can access them.
- Ottawa is a designated area under both the French Language Services Act and the Courts of Justice Act.
- More than 610,000 francophones live in Ontario. It is the largest French-speaking community in Canada outside of Quebec.
- According to the 2011 census, 42.2 per cent of Ontario francophones live in eastern Ontario. The remaining population is distributed across central (30 per cent), northeastern (20.8 per cent), southwestern (5.7 per cent) and northwestern (1.2 per cent) Ontario.
“As a lawyer and a francophone, I understand the challenges faced by many French-speaking users when navigating our justice system. I am pleased this project responds to recommendations presented in the 2012 Access to Justice in French report and the French Language Services Commissioner’s 2013-2014 Annual Report. This pilot will help us identify best practices for making justice services more accessible to Franco-Ontarians provincewide.”
“I look forward to seeing the results of this important initiative for Ottawa’s French-speaking community. The concepts tested here will help us determine how we can continue to improve justice services for the francophone population in courts across Ontario.”
The Honourable George Strathy
“This pilot responds, in a holistic and co-ordinated way, to recommendations in the Access to Justice in French report, and will create accessible and appropriate French-language services for the francophone community in Ottawa. I am proud that the Superior Court of Justice is partnering with the ministry on this unique initiative.”
The Honourable Heather Forster Smith
“I am very pleased to have our court actively involved in this important pilot project to provide timely and seamless French-language services in Ottawa. This is an important step forward in implementing recommendations from the Access to Justice in French report. I look forward to further collaborations with the ministry and all courts to improve access to justice for francophones in our province.”
The Honourable Lise T. Maisonneuve