Accelerating Access to Justice Act, 2021

Published on February 18, 2021

Attorney General Doug Downey introduced the Accelerating Access to Justice Act, 2021, that if passed, would improve access to justice for Ontarians across the system, by modernizing processes and breaking down barriers in the province’s courts, tribunals, estates law, family and child protection sectors.

The legislation, which builds on Ontario’s recent justice modernization breakthroughs, proposes urgent reforms to address delays for Ontarians waiting to resolve legal issues in front of a judge or beyond the courtroom, including in rural, northern, Francophone and Indigenous communities.

Notably, Accelerating Access to Justice Act, 2021, if passed, would reduce the time and money Ontarians spend waiting for their day in court by helping to fill judicial vacancies faster.

Key initiatives in the legislation include:

  • Helping fill judicial vacancies faster so people will be able to have their matters heard by a judge more quickly, and with fewer delays. These changes would maintain current legislated qualifications to become a judge, as announced in February 2020, and reflect feedback received from justice partners and lawyers. Changes will also support broader efforts to encourage more lawyers to apply by moving the applications process online.
  • Permanently allowing the virtual witnessing of wills and powers of attorney to make it easier for people to get these important affairs in order, without the limitations of travelling to access these services in-person.
  • Promoting the interests of children by giving them a greater voice in the court process, and better focusing resources of the Office of the Children’s Lawyer.
  • Increasing access to justice in French by expanding and guaranteeing the ability of francophones to file documents in French at all Ontario courthouses and for all matters including civil and family law.

COVID-19 compounded and underscored the impacts of longstanding barriers in Ontario’s outdated justice system. The Ministry of the Attorney General is working with justice partners to move more justice services online and closer to communities through breakthrough modernization initiatives.

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