Chapter 9 - Enhancement Of Participation In The System

Introduction

It was made clear during our consultations that the public is very enthusiastic about having some meaningful input into promoting the better administration of justice. Concerns were expressed, however, that the current vehicles for such public input -- the Ontario Courts Management Advisory Committee (OCMAC) and the Regional Courts Management Committees (RCMACs) were not being utilized to their fullest potential.

The First Report recognized that, if OCMAC and the RCMACs are to become an effective part of the civil justice system in Ontario, they must develop a more cohesive structure for purposes of co-ordinating and enhancing their advisory functions across the province. [1] It was further recommended that "these Committees be recognized and accepted by the Bench, the Ministry, the Bar and the Public as an important piece of the justice structure in Ontario, and that efforts be made to ensure that their mandate to consider and recommend policies and procedures to promote the better administration of justice and the effective use of human and other resources in the public interest, be duly carried out". [2]

Joint OCMAC/RCMAC Planning Session

Subsequent to the release of the First Report, a joint meeting of OCMAC and the RCMACs was held in May 1995 to address concerns raised about these Committees and to provide an opportunity for the Committee members to consider the mandate, structure, and inter-relationship of the Committees.

This was the first time Committee members had met together as a group to discuss their experiences and to develop a strategy for the future. Public participants gave freely of a summer weekend to take part in the conference, which underscored their dedication and strong support for a continuing public presence on these Committees. The main topics for discussion were:

  • the mandate, role and responsibilities of the Committees and their participants;
  • the experience and practices of the Committees to date; and
  • information and skill needs for members.

Drawing on their experiences, participants discussed issues and concerns within the framework of these general topics. It was apparent from the outset that the participants felt strongly that there must be a renewed commitment on the part of the Ministry, Bench and Bar to OCMAC and the RCMACs in view of their potential contribution to the administration of justice in the province. A number of suggestions were made to improve the operation of these Committees. For example, many Committee members felt they could be more effective if their two-year appointments were extended. As well, they suggested that greater efforts be made to ensure that there be an equitable rotation of the chairing responsibilities among all Committee members. It was also suggested that a mentorship and training program be implemented, and that the Committees be better supported administratively.

Additional Recommendations

The Task Force reiterates its support for the continuation of OCMAC and the RCMACs. We believe that these Committees are important components of the justice system in Ontario. They are well-positioned to identify problems within the civil justice system, and to contribute effectively to their solution. The participatory process they bring to the justice system and the potential vehicle they provide for public input are vitally important.

However, in supporting the continuation of OCMAC and the RCMACs the Task Force acknowledges the need for these Committees to be revitalized. Over the past year, for example, the role of OCMAC has been filled by the Heads of Court Committee, which consists of the Chief Justices and the Chief Judge of the three levels of court, as well as the Deputy Attorney General and the Assistant Deputy Attorney General, Courts Administration. We suggest that OCMAC should be resurrected to resume its role, as it is a more representative body which includes Bar and Public members.

We also would suggest that the revitalization of these Committees should ensure better coordination and interaction with local Bench and Bar Committees. Bench and Bar Committees currently exist in most regions and concern themselves with day-to-day problems in the region concerning court operation. Consideration should be given to ensuring regular liaison between these respective Committees in order to identify justice system issues and to arrive collaboratively at the most effective solutions.

In addition, we are of the view that a number of the recommendations arising out of the May 1995 Joint OCMAC/RCMAC Planning Session, discussed earlier, should be adopted to further support the revitalization of these Committees. We also feel that, outside of public representation on the Committees, it is important for there to be regular community input. This could be accomplished, for example, by inviting community interest groups to make submissions on issues related to the better administration of justice.

For clarity and emphasis we reiterate here the recommendation contained in our First Report, [3] namely that:

These Committees be recognized and accepted by the Bench, the Ministry, the Bar and the Public as an important piece of the justice structure in Ontario, and that efforts be made to ensure that their mandate to consider and recommend policies and procedures to promote the better administration of justice and the effective use of human and other resources in the public interest, be duly carried out.

In this context, and having regard to the foregoing comments, the Review makes the following additional recommendations.

RECOMMENDATION

With respect to OCMAC and the RCMACs, we further recommend that:

  • there be sufficient administrative staff to support and co-ordinate the work of these Committees, including following up on Committee recommendations;
  • that the terms of the Public and Bar members be extended to three years;
  • that the duties of the Chair be regularly rotated among Committee members;
  • that annual meetings be held to review the status of Committee recommendations, set agendas for the next year, and assess the Committee's performance;
  • that there be more input and access to these Committees by community stakeholders by inviting formal written submissions or presentations from interested groups;
  • that a formal orientation program be developed, in consultation with the Regional Senior Justice and Courts Administration, to familiarize newly-appointed members to the Committees;
  • that there be regular liaison between these Committees and local Bench and Bar Committees in order to identify justice system issues and to arrive collaboratively at the most effective solutions.

Footnotes:
[1] First Report of the Civil Justice Review (Toronto: Ontario Civil Justice Review, March 1995), at p.108.
[2] Id.
[3] Id., at p.108.

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