Terms of Reference for Family Legal Services Review
A key priority for the Government of Ontario and the Ministry of the Attorney General is to focus on initiatives that promote fairness and access to the justice system for all Ontarians. The access to justice challenge is very apparent in the family justice system, where a large number of self-represented litigants struggle to resolve their personal family law disputes. The need for enhanced access to justice has prompted a search for alternative and affordable models of family legal service delivery.
The Law Society of Upper Canada has a mandate to regulate the provision of legal services in Ontario, including oversight of lawyers and paralegals, and to facilitate access to justice. It has a keen interest in these issues.
Some reports have identified that permitting paralegals to handle certain family law matters without the supervision of a lawyer deserves careful consideration. There may be other legal service providers, for example, law clerks or law students, who could also offer qualified legal services in family law.
The Attorney General and the Treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada have agreed to work together on a review of the provision of family legal services by persons in addition to lawyers. The Attorney General requested that the Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice assign the Honourable Justice Annemarie E. Bonkalo, to lead this review. The Chief Justice has agreed to assign Justice Bonkalo to undertake this task.
The mandate of the review is to:
- Identify the legal services at different stages in a family law matter which, if provided by persons in addition to lawyers, could improve the family justice system by better enabling people to resolve their family law disputes.
- Identify persons other than lawyers (e.g., paralegals, law clerks and/or law students) who may be capable of providing those family legal services, with appropriate safeguards put in place (e.g., education, training); and
- Recommend procedures, mechanisms and/or safeguards (such as education, training, insurance, regulation and/or oversight) to ensure the quality of family legal services provided by alternate legal service providers.
The scope of the review does not include child protection matters under the Child and Family Services Act.
In fulfilling her mandate, Justice Bonkalo will:
- Oversee the posting of a short consultation paper on the Ministry of the Attorney General website;
- Invite written submissions from members of the public who wish to provide input into the review;
- Hold focused discussions with key stakeholders, as she deems appropriate; and
- Prepare a final report to be submitted to the Attorney General and the Treasurer of the Law Society, summarizing the views that have been expressed and her recommendations and advice.
Justice Bonkalo may strike up a reference group to provide her with support, as she deems appropriate.
Justice Bonkalo and any reference group members shall be reimbursed for reasonable expenses (e.g. travel, accommodation, meals, special needs) incurred as a result of their work on the review, in accordance with the provincial government directives, including the Travel, Meal and Hospitality Expenses Directive.
Written submissions received by Justice Bonkalo may be made publicly available.
In delivering her final report, Justice Bonkalo shall ensure, in so far as practicable, that it is in a form appropriate for public release, consistent with the requirements of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and other applicable legislation. Justice Bonkalo shall also ensure that the report is delivered in both English and French at the same time, in electronic and printed versions in sufficient quantity for public release.
Justice Bonkalo's final report shall be submitted on, or before, September 15, 2016.