Data from the recently published 2019-2020 Civil Court Survey reveals a 7% year-over-year decline in family law cases in Canada. This decrease represents the largest decline in family law cases in 5 years. The data is for the period from April 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020 and, in large part, does not reflect the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the justice system, including from court closures and stay-at-home orders. It is anticipated that there will be an even greater decline in family law cases in the 2020-2021 Civil Court Survey.
Of the more than 228,000 active family law cases during the 2019-2020 period, 47% were divorce cases. Of this number, almost three quarters involved requests for a divorce judgement to legally end a marriage; the remainder involved matters related to custody, access, and support. Notably, the data also shows that custody and access family law court cases during this period reported more activity than non-family cases, which the report on the data suggests may be “an indication of the amount of time and court resources they require”.
The Juristat report on family law cases in civil courts for 2019-2020 and the 2019-2020 Civil Court Survey data are available on the Statistics Canada website here: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/210628/dq210628d-eng.htm.
« Profil des causes de droit de la famille au Canada, 2019-2020 » est disponible en français ici : https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/210628/dq210628d-fra.htm.
A new report by the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) examines how the move from in-person to online hearings is impacting low-income tenants across Ontario. “Digital Evictions: The Landlord and Tenant Board’s Experiment in Online Hearings” discusses the challenges and consequences for tenants who do not have access to reliable internet and phone services for their hearings. The report also indicates that the shift to online hearings may have disproportionate adverse impacts for rural and remote households, tenants whose first language is not English, people with mental health issues, and people who are illiterate or innumerate.
The ACTO report explores data from several sources, including surveys of digital hearings that were carried out across Ontario from March to May, 2021 and reveals several drawbacks to participation in a virtual hearing by video or phone. The report also highlights ACTO’s concern that the digital first approach to hearings will continue post pandemic. “Digital Evictions: The Landlord and Tenant Board’s Experiment in Online Hearings” is available on the ACTO website here: https://www.acto.ca/production/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Digital-Evictions-ACTO.pdf.
“The Right to be Heard: The Future of Advocacy in Canada” is a new report by the Advocates’ Society that discusses the future of oral advocacy in Canada’s justice system. The report also examines the history behind the right to be heard, considerations for the mode of hearing, and the impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the justice system.
The Right to be Heard report is the culmination of months of research and consultations with judges, advocates in different practice areas, justice system participants, advocacy groups and others. This initative was led by the Modern Advocacy Task Force, which was established in spring 2020 “to make recommendations with respect to the future of oral advocacy in the Canadian justice system”.
This Final Report of the Modern Advocacy Task Force recognizes improvements made possible by modern technology during the pandemic but cautions that such changes to the justice system “should not be mistaken as a panacea for the grave challenges of access to justice, nor as an adequate replacement for in-person justice in all, or even most, cases.”
According to the report, there are four core principles that lay the foundation for the Task Force’s recommendations:
- The open court principle;
- The imperative of access to justice;
- The integrity of the court process; and
- The principle of proportionality
In discussing the significance of the report, former Chief Justice of Canada and member of the Modern Advocacy Advisory Group, The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin noted that the report “offers a timely examination of the fundamental role of court advocacy in securing justice and how it can be preserved in a digital world.”
“The Right to be Heard: The Future of Advocacy in Canada”, published by the Advocates’ Society, is available here: https://s3.amazonaws.com/tld-documents.llnassets.com/0027000/27521/the_right_to_be_heard_the_future_of_advocacy_in_canada_digital.pdf.
The Canadian Judicial Council (CJC) has released an updated version of Ethical Principles for Judges / Principes de déontologie judiciare. For more than twenty years, this publication has provided guidance on a range of questions within the judicial community.
While this new publication maintains a format similar to the 1998 volume, it raises questions about present day subjects such as the digital literacy of judges and addresses a range of important issues such as the need to be alert to “the history, experience and circumstances of Canada’s Indigenous peoples, and to the diversity of cultures and communities that make up this country”. In discussing the importance of this new iteration of Ethical Principles for Judges, Chief Justice of Canada and Canadian Judicial Council Chairperson, the Right Honourable Richard Wagner, noted that, “[t]hese revised principles explore new and emerging issues relevant to our modern times”.
Ethical Principles for Judges includes sections on:
- Judicial Independence;
- Integrity and Respect;
- Diligence and Competence;
- Equality; and
Ethical Principles for Judges / Principes de déontologie judiciare, published by the Canadian Judicial Council, is available in English and French here: https://cjc-ccm.ca/sites/default/files/documents/2021/CJC_20-301_Ethical-Principles_Bilingual%20FINAL.pdf.