Annual Report 2010-2011
The Ministry of the Attorney General is responsible for providing a fair and accessible justice system that reflects the needs of diverse communities across the province. The ministry employs approximately 8,000 staff who:
- Work in criminal, civil, family and small claims courts
- Prosecute crime
- Provide services to victims and vulnerable Ontarians
- Provide legal services to government.
The ministry is guided by three key strategies that support the government priority of Justice and the result to "keep families safe and secure." They are:
- Deliver an Effective Justice System
- Protect the Interests of Victims and Vulnerable People
- Provide an Efficient Court System.
Deliver an Effective Justice System
In 2010-11 the ministry continued to build on Ontario's strong criminal justice system with the appointment of four judges to the Ontario Court of Justice and 10 Justices of the Peace.
Throughout 2010-11 the ministry and its justice partners continued their efforts to reduce court delay with the Justice on Target strategy. Justice on Target is the province's first results-driven strategy to reduce delay in Ontario's criminal courts.
The strategy sets targets to reduce the provincial average number of days and appearances needed to complete a criminal case by 30 per cent by June 2012. Statistics from January 1 to December 31, 2010 show that province-wide, the average number of appearances needed to complete a criminal charge is now down nearly six per cent since the strategy got underway.
This is the first time in nearly 20 years this figure has started to consistently go down. A positive trend is taking shape. The province-wide average number of days to complete a criminal charge is also down nearly two per cent when the impact of Bench Warrant days * is factored out.
Provincial Average Number of Appearances
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Provincial Average Days to Disposition
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Throughout 2010-11 the ministry and its justice partners continued to engage all 57 of Ontario's criminal courts.
In the winter and spring of 2010, 37 small and medium volume court sites were engaged in the Justice on Target strategy through the use of a regional approach. Meetings with the respective regional leaders were held in Sudbury for Northeast Region, Ottawa for East Region, Thunder Bay for Northwest Region, Newmarket for Central East Region, London for West Region and Hamilton for Central West Region.
In early June 2010, Oshawa, Simcoe County (including Barrie, Midland, Collingwood, Bradford and Orillia), Peterborough and Ottawa sites were engaged in the strategy. In late September 2010, the remaining sites, Milton, Hamilton, Thunder Bay, St. Catharines and Welland were engaged.
As of October 1, 2010, at all Ontario Court of Justice criminal courts in the province (including satellite offices) justice participants are working to find better ways of moving cases through the criminal justice system more effectively, all the while respecting their independent roles. As a result of improved processes, Ontario's justice resources are being shifted to priorities such as more serious crime and increased protection of the public.
Initiatives developed or expanded through Justice on Target include:
- Meaningful First Appearances
- Dedicated Prosecution
- Crown Access Commitment
- Streamlined Disclosure
- Appearance Standard
- Increased Availability of Plea Courts
- Direct Accountability
- Enhanced Video Conferencing
- Bail Enhancements
- On-Site Legal Aid and Simplified Online Application Process.
On November 4, 2010, Justice on Target was awarded the gold prize recognizing excellence in public service leadership in the Federal/Provincial/Territorial category of the IPAC/Deloitte Public Sector Leadership Award by a jury of independent experts. The award is a prestigious national award developed by the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC) and Deloitte International.
Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) has continued to collaborate with the Ministry of the Attorney General in the Justice on Target strategy to reduce delays in court by 30 per cent.
In 2010-11, the ministry continued to work closely with LAO to place legal aid application offices in courthouses across Ontario and develop a new, streamlined online application process for quick, one-stop legal aid applications.
Currently, onsite Legal Aid Ontario offices are in almost 50 courthouses across the province, representing more than 90 per cent of criminal court matters in Ontario, allowing accused persons to apply immediately for legal aid. Additional sites may be added in the future. The ministry and LAO will continue to examine ways of expanding the use of the online application process during 2011-12.
In 2009, Ontario announced an additional investment of $150 million over four years in Legal Aid Ontario, increasing Legal Aid Ontario's base funding by $60 million a year by 2012.
As part of the transformation, Legal Aid Ontario announced in September 2010 that it had established six Family Law Service Centres. These centres provide certificate services through staff lawyers, summary legal advice, as well as document preparation, referral to duty counsel, advice counsel, mediation services, or other services as appropriate. The centres act as one-stop resources for clients seeking information, support and family legal services, and each client is provided with a focused intervention to determine how Legal Aid Ontario can help. In the remaining areas of the province, Legal Aid Ontario is a key partner in expanding family services province-wide, including the provision of increased duty counsel.
Legal Aid Ontario has begun transitioning the payment model for criminal lawyers from hourly rates to block fees to promote early resolution and systemic efficiency, reward highly competent quality lawyers, reduce red tape, and improve predictability of LAO payments. LAO has also established a Major Case Management Office to help improve oversight on big criminal cases and enhance LAO's capacity to take on cases.
Protect the Interests of Victims and Vulnerable People
During 2010-2011, Ontario announced the remaining grant recipients of the Aboriginal Victims Support Grant Program which awarded $2 million in grants to 20 community-based projects to help First Nations, Inuit and Métis victims of crime in 19 communities.
The Civil Remedies Grant program enables money to be taken out of the hands of wrongdoers for use to assist victims and police services. In 2010-11 the Attorney General awarded $2.5 million in grants to 41 police services across Ontario for a number of projects to assist victims and help prevent unlawful activity that results in victimization.
In February 2011, Ontario launched a coordinated, multi-pronged approach to combat human trafficking to help enforce human trafficking laws, vigorously prosecute offenders and ensure victims have the support they need to begin the healing process. The ministry committed $250,000 in 2010-11 for projects being launched immediately. In 2010/11, the Victim/Witness Assistance Program provided services to 86,045 people in Ontario. The program provides support and information throughout the court process to the most vulnerable victims and witnesses of violent crime.
The ministry is responsible for the administration of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICB), which awards compensation to victims of violent crime. With the support of the ministry, by March 31, 2010 the Board's backlog was effectively eliminated.
Provide an Efficient Court System
On March 1, 2010, new provisions under the Family Statute Law Amendment Act, 2009, took effect to better protect and support Ontario's children and families in times of family breakdown and distress.
In order to improve access to justice and reduce stress on families in times of family breakdown, the ministry is implementing further changes to the family justice process based on the following four pillars of reform:
- Providing more information to families up front about the steps they need to take and the impact on children when relationships break down
- Enhancing opportunities to identify issues, ensure early disclosure and provide community referrals to better support families in reaching resolutions
- Improving access to legal advice as well as less adversarial means of resolving issues such as mediation and
- Streamlining and simplifying the steps involved for those cases that must go to court.
In June 2010, the Mandatory Information Program was introduced in Milton and Brampton. As a result, more families are now able to learn about the options available to them to resolve their disputes and build brighter futures for their children.
Since June 2010 more than 2,000 people have already attended these sessions, where the effects of separation and divorce on families and children, legal issues and alternatives to litigation are discussed.
In September 2010, the ministry announced that the Mandatory Information Program was expanding to the 17 Family Court branches of the Superior Court of Justice so thousands more families would benefit from improvements to Ontario's family courts. The Mandatory Information Program will be available in these Family Courts by April 2011 and the remainder of the courts will have the program by summer 2011.
In December 2010, the ministry announced the expansion of family services province-wide. Since 1999, these services have been available in only 17 communities in Ontario. By summer 2011, Ontario courts that hear family cases will have the Mandatory Information Program, a Family Mediation Service that helps families identify challenges and work out solutions outside the courtroom, which saves parents money, and an Information and Referral Coordinator who will refer families to community agencies that can help them resolve challenges earlier and at less cost.
In 2010-11, as a result of civil justice reforms to the system making it faster and more affordable for people and businesses to use Ontario's civil courts, the Superior Court of Justice dealt with 12,475 fewer civil actions, a 17 per cent decrease from 2009. The Small Claims Court dealt with 6,400 more actions, a 10 per cent increase from 2009. Cases have moved to the faster and more affordable system, which means people can settle their disputes faster and at less cost.
Ontario Court Forms Assistant
In May 2010, the ministry introduced the Ontario Court Forms Assistant, an online tool that helps users complete the most commonly used family and small claims court forms.
As of March 1, 2011, the site has received more than 113,000 visits. Over 35,000 Small Claims Court forms and over 35,000 Family Court forms have been completed or partially completed online.
Throughout 2010-11 Ontario continued to work towards creating a modern, effective and accessible justice system by funding an accelerated new courthouse construction program and investing in existing courthouses.
The new Durham Region Courthouse was officially opened in October 2010, consolidating Superior Court and Ontario Court of Justice services that were previously delivered from eight different court sites. The courthouse was awarded the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold certification.
The Sioux Lookout satellite Courthouse was also officially opened in October 2010, improving access to justice for the local community and surrounding area. Many accessible features have been incorporated into the building including barrier free entrances and special equipment in the courtroom for people with hearing impairments. Wayfinding signage is available in Oji-Cree. The facility achieved Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver certification which includes strict regulations for energy management and conservation.
The Waterloo Region Consolidated Courthouse held a groundbreaking ceremony in June 2010 and construction is ongoing with completion scheduled for spring 2013. The Thunder Bay Consolidated Courthouse groundbreaking took place February 24, 2011 and completion is planned for fall 2013.
Serve the Public Interest
The Office of the Independent Police Review Director is a civilian agency responsible for receiving, managing and overseeing all public complaints against police in Ontario. This includes municipal and regional police services and the Ontario Provincial Police. Since the OIPRD opened in October 2009, it has received over 4,500 complaints, including approximately 400 complaints in relation to incidents during the G20 Summit in Toronto.
In July 2010, the OIPRD announced that it was conducting a review of issues surrounding public complaints against police during the G20 Summit in Toronto. The review is examining the systemic issues related to allegations of unlawful searches, unlawful arrests, improper detention and issues related to the temporary holding facility during the G20. A final report is expected in late fall 2011.
In August 2010, the responsibility for the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario was transferred to the Ministry of the Attorney General.
In January 2011, the transfer of social justice tribunals to the Ministry of the Attorney General took place. This is the second group of adjudicative agencies to be grouped together following the successful clustering of Environment and Land Tribunals Ontario in 2010.
The creation of the social justice tribunals cluster is part of the government's ongoing efforts to ensure adjudicative tribunals best serve the public by being accountable, transparent and efficient in their operations. This group of agencies includes:
- The Child and Family Services Review Board
- The Custody Review Board
- The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario
- The Landlord and Tenant Board
- The Social Benefits Tribunal
- The Special Education Tribunals (French and English)
In 2010-11, the ministry introduced a number of pieces of legislation aimed at serving the public interest.
In October 2010, the government introduced the Good Government Act, 2011; it received Royal Assent on March 30, 2011. The Act brings together items from several ministries. It is centered on the goals of the province's Open for Business initiative. Items include modernization, and some housekeeping and technical amendments.
The Accounting Profession Act, received Royal Assent on May 18, 2010. This legislation clarifies the authority of the three accounting bodies, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario, the Certified General Accountants Association of Ontario and the Society of Management Accountants of Ontario, to govern their members, while increasing accountability to the public for their work.
The Ticket Speculation Act, was introduced in April 2009 and received Royal Assent December 8, 2010. The act prohibits related primary and secondary ticket sellers from selling tickets to the same event, helping to ensure that Ontario consumers have fair access to tickets for their favourite concerts, sporting events and theatrical performances.
The Election Statute Law Amendment Act received Royal Assent on May 18, 2010. The act further modernizes Ontario provincial elections by making them fairer, more flexible and more accessible.
The Members' Integrity Amendment Act, 2010 also received Royal Assent on May 18, 2010. This legislation amends the Members' Integrity Act, 1994 to modernize the code of conduct that governs members of the Legislative Assembly and to strengthen the Integrity Commissioner's authority to enforce the code of conduct.
Building on recommendations made during fall 2009 by the Information and Privacy Commissioner, Ontario put forward proposed amendments to the Juries Act, as part of the Good Government Act, 2009. The Juries Act was proclaimed on June 30, 2010. The Act creates a clear and transparent process for screening prospective jurors who are ineligible because of a prior criminal conviction.
Table 1: Ministry Expenditures 2010/11
Table 2: Staff Strength as of March 31, 2010