Better, More Affordable Justice for Families and Consumers
The Smarter and Stronger Justice Act, if passed, would help the government provide better, more affordable justice for families and consumers by:
Updating Ontario's outdated class action legislation (Class Proceedings Act)
Ontario's class action legislation has not been significantly updated in more than 25 years. The current system is outdated, slow and doesn't always put people at the centre of class actions in Ontario. The proposed changes would make class actions more fair, transparent and efficient for people and businesses in Ontario by:
- requiring settlements to be fair, reasonable and in the best interests of the people who are part of a class action
- resolving cases faster so people receive compensation sooner, and businesses experience fewer financial and reputational risks
- dismissing dormant cases that waste court resources
- establishing transparency and safeguards in relation to third-party litigation funding
- improving how class members are informed about their claims by ensuring that all notices are by default in plain language and available in French
- encouraging the use of preliminary motions that would resolve the proceeding, narrow the issues to be determined, or reduce the evidence to be adduced
- establishing a more stringent test to determine whether a class action is the preferable procedure as opposed to other available alternative dispute mechanisms or compensation schemes, which may allow people to get more compensation, faster
- ensuring class counsels' fees are fair and reasonable, and allowing the court to withhold a portion of the fees until the court can review how class members were compensated
- enhancing transparency regarding class counsel fees, as well as settlement and award distributions.
The proposed changes are building off a comprehensive review of class actions by the Law Commission of Ontario in July 2019 and the Ministry of the Attorney General's own review and consultations. Many of the Commission's recommendations would be implemented with the proposed changes.
Simplifying how a small estate is handled (Estates Act)
A court process called probate is a way for a person to get or confirm the legal authority to manage an estate. Right now, the probate process for all estates in Ontario is the same — no matter the size of the estate. For example, the current legal process to apply for probate for an estate (the belongings, real estate and other assets and liabilities someone leaves behind when they die) is the same whether the estate is worth $500,000 or $15,000.
Ontario is proposing changes that would make it easier to apply for probate for a small estate, exempt probate applicants from the requirement to post security for small estates in certain cases, and help ensure people can get or confirm their legal authority to manage an estate faster. The proposed changes may encourage more people to apply for probate of an estate of lower value, and would ensure there are safeguards in place to protect minors and vulnerable people who have an interest in an estate.
A proposed change to the Estates Act would also increase efficiency by allowing local court registrars to do the required estate court records searches, rather than a central court registrar.
Expanding who can perform marriage ceremonies (Marriage Act)
In Ontario, couples can be married in a religious marriage (a registered religious official performs the ceremony) or a civil marriage (a judge, justice of the peace, or authorized municipal clerk or their designate performs the ceremony). The proposed changes would provide Ontarians more choice by allowing more individuals to perform marriage ceremonies. The proposed changes would authorize out-of-province Canadian judges and Ontario case management masters to perform marriage ceremonies in Ontario. Additionally, Indigenous groups in Ontario will be able to designate people who are authorized to perform marriage ceremonies.