Addressing the Backlog in the Courts
In the article” Ontario Civil Justice Reform in the Wake of COVID-19: Inspired or Institutionalized?” by Suzanne E. Chiodo, Professor Chiodo remarks that “Ontario’s justice system is already facing an overwhelming backlog, and the courts’ inability to function at full capacity—combined with the spike in litigation that is sure to follow the pandemic —could lead to a breakdown of the system.”
Unfortunately, simply moving court processes online to Zoom will not demolish the backlog. Some of the contributing factors to the backlog include: a poorly structured system, chronic underfunding of the courts, and outdated rules from the Rules of Civil Procedures. These problems cannot be fixed by just moving onto Zoom.
Professor Chiodo points out that “Lawyers ‘infect’ new processes with adversarial formalisms such as evidentiary objections, and so the new wine suffers from being put into old wineskins… Expecting hearings by Zoom to address issues of cost, delay, and accessibility is like expecting a Benz Patent-Motorwagen to outrun a horse and buggy”. This is because virtual courts do not remove procedural steps.
Professor Chiodo recommends that Ontario adapt the BC CRT model for civil claims under $5,000. The CRT has been a resounding success in BC. The model is consumer centric and is made for self-represented litigants. It is easy to use and dispenses justice in a timely and effective manner. I agree with Professor Chiodo, and hope to see movement towards an Ontario system soon.
(Views are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization.)
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