Chapter 2 - The Process of the Civil Justice Review since the First Report

Further Consultation And Dialogue

"Geneva II" - Collingwood, Ontario

The process of consultation, which was so much a part of our First Report, has continued. On April 30th to May 2nd, 1995, a conference was held in Collingwood so that judges, lawyers, court administrators and members of the public could meet to discuss the First Report and to formulate plans for implementing the Report's recommendations. The conference was attended by about 85 representatives from these four groups.

A number of workshops were held focusing on "Implementing the Vision", and including sessions covering such matters as "Delay and Backlog", "Technology: Possibilities, Opportunities and Pitfalls", and "The Team Concept: Making it Work". Also included on the agenda were two technology demonstrations -- one demonstrating electronic filing, and the other a motion by video conferencing. The conference was a success and provided another opportunity to further the lines of communication between the participating groups in the justice system.

Throughout the conference, Task Force members were asked to share their views on the problems facing the civil justice system which had led them to make the recommendations in the First Report. In addition, the Task Force invited participants at the conference to offer feedback both on the Review itself and on the recommendations. A 30-minute video of these conversations was prepared, which was distributed to 45 cable stations across the province.

The Review produced the video both to educate and to inform the public. In our view, the public needs to acquire -- and from our consultations appears to want to acquire -- an understanding of the civil justice system. This understanding is an important ingredient in developing public support for an agenda of change.

An informal survey of the 45 television stations has revealed a favourable response to the video. While most of the stations contacted have aired the video at least once, a large number have aired it more than three times.

Visit from The Right Honourable the Lord Woolf

In June 1995, The Right Honourable the Lord Woolf of England released his Interim Report [1] and in July 1996, his Final Report entitled "Access to Justice". [2] Lord Woolf's Report deals with the problems facing the civil justice system in England and Wales, many of which are very similar to those addressed by the Civil Justice Review. In September 1995, Lord Woolf visited Toronto.

What is remarkable about the Woolf Inquiry and the Civil Justice Review is that these two separate bodies from two different jurisdictions independently arrived at very similar conclusions. As stated by Lord Woolf: [3]

I am comforted by the fact that so many of the proposals [in the First Report] anticipated my own proposals. It recognizes that we have to look again at our traditional approach to dispute resolution and our institutions and, while retaining their strengths, modify those features where to do so, will overcome the present shortcomings. It recognizes, as I do, that we have to look again at our court structures, at our procedures, our professional practices and the priority we give to civil justice.
Like the Civil Justice Review in Ontario, Lord Woolf concludes that: [4]
[The] present system ... is too expensive in that the costs often exceed the value of the claim; too slow in bringing cases to a conclusion and too unequal: there is a lack of equality between the powerful, wealthy litigant and the under-resourced litigant. It is too uncertain: the difficulty of forecasting what litigation will cost and how long it will last induces the fear of the unknown; and it is incomprehensible to many litigants. Above all it is too fragmented in the way it is organised since there is no- one with clear overall responsibility for the administration of civil justice; and too adversarial as cases are run by the parties, not by the courts and the rules of court, all too often, are ignored by the parties and not enforced by the court.

The Woolf Report concludes that these problems make the system in the United Kingdom increasingly inaccessible. Some of the specific recommendations made in Access to Justice to address those problems are:

  • procedures should be tailored to meet the needs of the individual case;
  • for cases between £3,000 and £10,000 the type of procedures available should be limited;
  • for cases above £10,000, a new multi-track system should be created, providing for "hands-on" management by teams of judges;
  • within the multi-track system there should be consideration of cases at two stages -- a case management conference, early in the case and a pre-trial review, shortly before trial; and
  • technology should be implemented, including video and telephone conference facilities.

During his visit, Lord Woolf toured the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Centre, and also met with case management groups and judicial team leaders.

The Canadian Bar Association Systems of Civil Justice Task Force

Coinciding with the release of our First Report, the Systems of Civil Justice Task Force was formed by the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) to inquire into the state of civil justice on a national basis and to develop mechanisms to help modernize the civil justice system. The Task Force consulted individuals and organizations across Canada with an interest in civil justice reform, including the Civil Justice Review, and on August 25, 1996, released its Report [5] .

Like the Civil Justice Review in Ontario, the CBA Task Force stressed the importance of an accessible and efficient civil justice system and noted its current shortcomings:

[C]ivil law is part of all of our lives. It follows that a fair, effective and accessible civil justice system is essential to the peaceful ordering and the economic and social well-being of our society. Yet the Task Force discovered that many Canadians feel that they cannot exercise their rights effectively because using the civil justice system takes too long, is too expensive, or is too difficult to understand.

Many of the recommended approaches proposed by the CBA Task Force to address these problems are similar to those found in our First Report, including, for example, the need for the courts to become dispute resolution centres, referred to in the CBA Report as a "multi-option" civil justice system, and for the judiciary to assume a greater supervisory role over the progress of cases [6] . Indeed, the vision for the civil justice system articulated in the Report [7] has many of the same elements as our framework for the modern civil justice system set out earlier in Chapter 1. [8]

Other Meetings

Since the release of our First Report, the Civil Justice Review has continued its consultative process in an effort to promote its vision and to respond to any concerns. The Task Force has met with members of the judiciary, the bar and courts administration across the province, and has also accepted invitations to meet with interested groups.


[1] The Right Honourable the Lord Woolf, Access to Justice: Interim Report to the Lord Chancellor on the civil justice system in England and Wales (June, 1995).
[2] The Right Honourable the Lord Woolf, Access to Justice: Final Report to the Lord Chancellor on the civil justice system in England and Wales (July, 1996) [hereinafter "Access to Justice"].
[3] The Right Honourable the Lord Woolf, Address (Dinner in Honour of Lord Woolf, Osgoode Hall, September 6, 1995) [unpublished]. Lord Woolf has since been appointed the Master of the Rolls in England.
[4] Access to Justice, supra, note 2, at p.2.
[5] Systems of Civil Justice Task Force Report (The Canadian Bar Association, August 1996).
[6] Id., at pp. 31 - 50.
[7] Id., at p.23.
[8] See supra, Chapter 1, at p.5.

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