Family Court System Easier to Navigate
helping families by making it easier for them to navigate family courts and
access the legal assistance they need.
Last year, Ontario and the Law
Society of Upper Canada asked the Honourable Annemarie E. Bonkalo to lead a
review to consider whether a broader range of service providers could deliver
certain family legal services.
Ontario and the Law Society are now seeking
public feedback on Justice Bonkalo’s recommendations. People can submit
feedback online until May 15, 2017.
The province, together with the Law
Society, plans to release an action plan by fall 2017 to address these
In addition, Ontario has asked the federal government
to support its plans to expand Unified
Family Courts provincewide. Expanding these courts would streamline the
family court process by ensuring Ontario families only have to go to one court
to resolve their legal issues no matter where they live.
access to justice for families is part of our plan to create jobs, grow the
economy and help people in their everyday lives.
“We know that navigating the family justice system can be difficult and
confusing – especially when you don’t have access to qualified legal help. As a
government and as a legal community, I know we can do better. I am grateful to
Justice Bonkalo for proposing potential solutions, and I am committed to
working with our partners in the justice sector and the federal government to
help families get the help they need.”
—Yasir Naqvi, Attorney General
“Justice Bonkalo’s report is an important reminder that the family
justice system in Ontario needs to evolve to ensure the public has timely
access and competent representation. The province’s clear commitment to the
Unified Family Court expansion is welcome. As the legal regulator, we will work
closely with Ontario and other partners to establish new paths to improve the
public’s experience in the family justice system.”
— Paul Schabas,
Treasurer, Law Society of Upper Canada
“As former Chief Justice of the
Ontario Court of Justice, I am a strong advocate of court modernization. I am
pleased to present the results of this review to the Attorney General and the
Law Society and to do my part in helping people access the legal services they
need to resolve their family matters.”
— Honourable Justice Annemarie E.
Bonkalo, Ontario Court of Justice
Bonkalo’s final report includes 21 recommendations to help make it easier
for families to access the legal system, including creating a special licence
that would allow paralegals to provide certain types of family legal services
such as custody and divorces without property.
- In 2014-15 over 57 per
cent of Ontarians did not have legal representation in family court.
- Over the past year, Justice Bonkalo consulted with dozens of groups and
individuals from across the legal community, as well as those representing the
interests of families in the justice system.
- Currently, Ontario has
17 Unified Family Courts located in Barrie, Bracebridge, Brockville, Cobourg,
Cornwall, Hamilton, Kingston, L'Orignal, Lindsay, London, Napanee, Newmarket,
Oshawa, Ottawa, Perth, Peterborough and St. Catharines.
- The Unified
Family Court model allows families to go to one court to fully resolve their
legal issues. In all other communities across the province, family law matters
are divided between the Ontario Court of Justice and the Superior Court of
- Judicial appointments to the Unified Family Court fall under
- The last expansion of the Unified Family Court
took place in 1999.
and comment on Justice Bonkalo’s recommendations.
General Yasir Naqvi’s letter to Minister of Justice, Jody
The Law Society
of Upper Canada
Clare Graham, Minister’s office, Clare.Graham@ontario.ca,
Emilie Smith, Communications
Branch, MAG-Media@ontario.ca, 416-326-221
Susan Tonkin, The Law Society of
Upper Canada, firstname.lastname@example.org,