Mandate letter progress: Attorney General
The Minister’s response letter to Premier Wynne, outlining the results achieved on key mandate priorities in 2014-15.
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January 11, 2016
The Honourable Kathleen Wynne
Room 281, Main Legislative Building
Dear Premier Wynne:
I am pleased to advise you that the Ministry of the Attorney General has made considerable progress on our six mandate priorities in 2014-15. Highlighted below are key accomplishments to date.
Promoting Fairness and Access to Justice
- The ministry continues to focus on the delivery of legislative and systemic initiatives that promote fairness and access to our justice system for Ontarians. In the last year, my ministry has:
- Created the Attorney General's Justice Roundtable, a forum in which leaders from the justice community come together with a common interest in promoting access to justice. The first meeting of the roundtable was on June 22, 2015; the second meeting was held on November 27, 2015. It is anticipated the next Justice Roundtable will be held in late spring 2016, when the Criminal Justice and Family Justice Tables present their updates.
- Raised the eligibility threshold at which people can qualify for legal aid assistance, resulting in an additional 250,000 low-income Ontarians being eligible to receive legal aid after two of several forecasted increases.
- Introduced Bill 52: Protection of Public Participation Act, 2014, which came into force on November 3, 2015.
- Worked with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing on planning the 2016 launch of the review of scope and effectiveness of the Ontario Municipal Board.
- Initiated a pilot project that will provide seamless access to justice in French at the Ottawa courthouse and will see French Language Services delivered with an even stronger emphasis on the concept of an active offer, meaning the services will be both available and publicized.
- Prepared amendments to the Limitations Act, 2002 and the Compensation for Victims of Crime Act, which are part of Bill 132, Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act (Supporting Survivors and Challenging Sexual Violence and Harassment), 2015 that will, if passed, remove limitation periods for claims related to sexual assault and certain other claims.
- Increased funding by an additional $1.75 million per year for the province's 42 sexual assault centres, so they can enhance their services for survivors of sexual violence.
- Begun development of a pilot project to provide victims of sexual assault with independent legal advice.
- Commenced the development of an enhanced prosecution model for criminal sexual assault cases, including the creation of an internal Sexual Violence Advisory Group within the Crown prosecution service that will provide legal and strategic advice to prosecutors as needed, develop and implement a new Crown mentorship program, and develop and deliver enhanced education and training for Crowns and other justice partners.
Building a Stronger Relationship Between First Nations and the Justice System
- The ministry continues its efforts to build respectful relationships between Aboriginal Peoples and the justice system. We have:
- Appointed Kimberly Murray as the Assistant Deputy Attorney General responsible to lead the ministry's new Aboriginal Justice Division.
- Developed a new approach for identifying volunteer jurors for coroner's inquests with the Nishnawbe-Aski Nation, resulting in 473 First Nations volunteers being signed up to serve on coroner's juries in Northern Ontario.
- Provided funding for the Feathers of Hope – Justice and Juries youth conference, which included 150 Aboriginal youth participants from across the province.
- The Debwewin Implementation Committee has met numerous times and has provided meaningful advice on these and other recommendations from the Honourable Frank Iacobucci's 2013 report on First Nations Representation on Ontario Juries. Additionally, the committee has:
- Engaged Aboriginal communities in March 2015 to obtain input regarding the jury questionnaire. From this engagement, a new questionnaire was implemented in support of the 2016 jury roll.
- Launched a pilot project to build capacity in First Nations communities regarding knowledge of the justice system, which included the participation of law students.
- The companion Aboriginal Justice Advisory Group has met on four occasions and, in the spring of 2015, drafted its terms of reference.
Moving Ahead on Court Reform
- The ministry continues to modernize and streamline our court services. We are reviewing internal court processes and non-core business with a view to delivering the most efficient courts operating system possible and protecting front-line services.
- My ministry's progress on court reform initiatives includes:
- Launching a small claims court e-filing system across the province, which allows individuals and businesses to file small claims court forms and pay court filing fees online, and receive court-issued documents by email.
- Working with the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services (MCSCS) to collect and analyze data to identify issues related to bail, sureties, remand and delay, and to develop an action plan to address system change in these areas.
- Additionally, my ministry is working to streamline processes in our courts by exploring the creation of an online system for resolving traffic tickets and other charges prosecuted under the Provincial Offences Act. The ministry is continuing to consult with stakeholders, including municipal and justice sector partners and subject-matter experts, to develop a more detailed and focused proposal.
- One area of focus for the Attorney General's Justice Roundtable is criminal justice. I have asked the Criminal Justice Table to identify ways to improve access to justice for mentally ill persons who come into contact with the criminal justice system. The Criminal Justice Table held its first meeting on September 18, 2015, and established a working group to develop ideas for consideration by the larger group and hear presentations by various persons involved in different facets of the criminal justice system. The working group has met three times thus far and is scheduled to meet again early this year.
Reforming the Family Law System
- The ministry continues to work with our justice system partners on family law reform, with a focus on creating a holistic system that promotes family health and access to justice.
- We are working with the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Government and Consumer Services and Ministry of Community and Social Services to deliver the online Child Support Service. This new service will make it simpler and faster for parents to set up or change child support payments, without having to go to court. The service is expected to launch in 2016.
- The ministry also has an agreement in place with the Office of the Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Justice that it will pay a fee for service to Dispute Resolution Officers in seven communities. These officers provide an early neutral evaluation of family law cases where a party is seeking to change an existing order.
- The other area of focus that I set for the Attorney General's Justice Roundtable is family law. The Family Justice Table is considering the need to streamline the court process to address the needs of litigants before and during the court process. It met on October 1 and 29, 2015, to discuss whether an enhanced triage process can be implemented in family court. The co-chairs of the Family Justice Table reported back to the Justice Roundtable and presented two triage models developed with input from the Family Justice Table. It was recommended that the ministry proceed with piloting both models in separate court locations in the province. Work is underway in partnership with the Offices of the Chief Justice of both courts and Legal Aid Ontario to identify suitable court locations and resource requirements.
Building Safer Communities
- The ministry continues to support initiatives led by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS) relating to the Youth Action Plan and the Ontario Youth Strategy. The ministry also continues to collaborate with MCYS and MCSCS on the Youth Justice Advisory Panel.
- We continue to participate in various cross-border initiatives (Border Operations Leadership Team, Hands Across the Border) with Canadian and US law enforcement prosecutors in trying to keep guns out of Ontario and get handguns off our streets. These initiatives are aimed at maintaining and advancing border security, as well as combatting transnational cross-border crime, through better communication, coordination and collaboration between American and Canadian officials.
Cracking Down on Auto Insurance Fraud
- The ministry continues to work with the Ministry of Finance and MCSCS to explore potential enhancements to serious fraud investigations and prosecutions. We are also leading a project to transfer the automobile insurance dispute resolution system to the ministry's Licence Appeal Tribunal, resulting in greater efficiency.
I am proud of my ministry's achievements to date, and look forward to ongoing collaboration with our partners and stakeholders to ensure a modern, fair and accessible justice system. We will continue to focus on delivering on the mandate priorities to achieve our government's objectives.
|Mandate Letter Commitment||Progress to Date|
|Continue to focus on the delivery of legislative and systemic initiatives that promote fairness and access to our justice system for Ontarians.|
|Promote fairness and access to justice by providing services to victims of sexual violence and helping them through the justice system|
|Engage in discussions with the legal profession about improving access to justice. Develop a strategy to expand Legal Aid support for the most vulnerable within our society by working to raise the income eligibility threshold to qualify for Legal Aid. Ensure that more Ontarians in need are represented by a lawyer through Legal Aid — or have access to the legal supports they may need.|
|Pursue the re-introduction of legislation to protect the public from lawsuits intended to discourage public participation.|
|Support: Support the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) in reviewing the scope and effectiveness of the Ontario Municipal Board and in recommending possible reforms to improve its role within the broader land use planning system.|
|As the Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs, continue to work to ensure ongoing improvement in the availability of French-language services within the justice system, including court services.|
|Continue efforts to strengthen the relationship between Aboriginal Peoples and the justice system.|
|Working with partner ministries (including the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs), organizations and First Nations, continue to implement the recommendations of the Iacobucci report: First Nations Representation on Ontario Juries.|
|Work with the Jury Review Implementation Committee and the Advisory Group to achieve significant progress in capacity-building and education, making the jury system more accessible and improving the prospective pool of jurors.|
|Work with other ministries to ensure continued consultation with First Nation representatives about increasing positive participation in, and access to, the court system. Continue to support innovative initiatives to address self-represented litigants.|
|Continue to modernize and streamline our court services. The ongoing focus is on improving access to justice, increasing efficiency and improving services through innovative, low-cost and sustainable changes.|
|Develop a comprehensive strategy to address systemic challenges related to bail, sureties, remand and delay. Work with your partner ministries and consult with stakeholders on this strategy, which will include a co-ordinated approach that incorporates mental health initiatives for the accused.|
|Continue to work with other partner ministries on family law reform, with a focus on creating a holistic system that promotes family health and access to justice. As a priority, identify ways to triage cases at the initial stages. Goals include addressing families that require additional support due to domestic violence, mental health or other concerns — and ensuring families get the help they need.|
|Collaborate with the judiciary to develop a more harmonized family court system in Ontario. This includes ensuring that, wherever possible, one judge oversees a case from beginning to end.|
|Work with the Minister of Children and Youth Services and the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services to address challenges with violent crime involving young offenders and victims. Continue to collaborate on important programs, such as the Youth Action Plan.|
|Assist the police in the pursuit of measures to keep guns out of Ontario and get handguns off our streets. This issues requires engagement at all levels of government.|
|Protect Ontario consumers by continuing to be tough on auto insurance fraud.|