Two of Ontario's chief justices are calling for the province's family court system to be scrapped and replaced with a new model that would see custody and property disputes decided by judges housed in the same courthouse, alongside a variety of family support services.
Family breakdowns often involve complex social problems that need co-ordinated responses from the judiciary and government agencies, along with more funding, Ontario Chief Justice Warren Winkler said.
"The pace of new funding must increase, in recognition of the fact that judicial intervention is only part of what is needed to cope with family breakdown and child protection," he said in a speech in Toronto yesterday to mark the opening of Ontario's courts for 2008-09.
Addressing a courtroom packed with judges and lawyers, Winkler and Chief Justice Annemarie Bonkalo of the Ontario Court of Justice called for an expansion of "unified family courts."
It would end the practice, still common in many parts of the province, including Toronto, of having one type of family law problem – such as a custody battle – dealt with by a provincially appointed judge in one courthouse and a related problem – a money or property dispute – decided by a federally appointed judge in a superior court.
While family law cases have been shifted into a single "unified" court in 17 locations around the province, merging family courts across Ontario would require co-operation from Ottawa, which appoints and funds superior court judges.
Ontario Attorney General Chris Bentley agrees with bringing all family court matters and services under the same roof, which would make it easier for members of the public to resolve these legal problems, said Sheamus Murphy, his senior adviser, adding, however, that Ottawa has yet to show its support.
Murphy said he couldn't estimate how much Ontario spends on family courts because their operations are meshed with civil and criminal courts. The federal government, he said, provides "very limited funding" for family justice services, even though it has sole jurisdiction over legislation governing divorce and family property issues.
Winkler has suggested it's unfair for people who have been strained by litigation and perhaps given up a day's pay to attend court to have the added burden of trying to find the right courthouse.
There's "a large appetite" for a broader review of the family court system, he added in his speech yesterday. Bonkalo put it more plainly, calling for "a full review of family justice in Ontario," although it wasn't clear from her speech what she believes must be reviewed.
Bonkalo did note, however, that family law cases are often complex and time-consuming and the growing number of people representing themselves in court without lawyers is adding to the difficulties.
A shortage of superior court judges has also been blamed for court delays that drive up the cost of resolving family law disputes. Chief Justice Heather Smith of the Superior Court of Justice noted, however, that two dozen judicial vacancies on her bench have been filled by the federal government.
Parliament is allowing the appointment of a further 20 judges to superior courts across Canada, including eight in Ontario. Six of those eight will be sworn in this week, Smith said.
Commentary by the Ottawa mens centre
If you are male and walk into any Ontario Family Court, you can feel the hatred towards men just oozing out of the courtroom walls. The worst child abusers are not those serving convictions with very long jail sentences, they include the very worst of the underbelly of the profession entrusted by society with the fiduciary duty to ensure that justice is done and children have a relationship with both parents. The decisions show that men receive unfavorable decisions at such a rate that there is almost no point in a male litigating. The tragic tale of the Ontario Court of Appeal shows a systemic hatred towards men that is reflected in costs awards and orders for security for costs made in excess of 90% of the time against men. www.OttawaMensCentre.com
The Judiciary fail to accept responsibility
Winkler’s comments are old old news. Fact is the government and judiciary don’t give a dam about children. If they did, it all would have been in one court decades ago and, more importantly, there would be a legal presumption of equal parenting after separation and property rights for common law spouses.
Our judiciary now get rid of cases they don’t like for a variety of scandalous improper reasons that are nothing but an indirect application of Male Gender Apartheid. These tactics are, “vexatious litigant orders”, “orders for security for costs”, “restraining orders that are tantamount to deportation orders, and orders for child support without a scintilla of evidence. Family court is a place where the hatred towards men is palpable, it literally oozes out of the walls and creates an odour like that on death row for the wrongfully convicted.
Its a virtual taboo subject, just try and got a post published in the Star on the subject and you will quickly learn to write on eggshells.
not just the litigants, the parties but lawyers and judiciary also. Society puts the blinkers on and simply does not want to know about the obvious causes.
A primary cause of mental health is childhood sexual abuse, children need functional parents who also need to come from functional homes.
The single easiest fix is to mandate a legal presumption of equal parenting after separation, a single move that would take billions of Canadian dollars out of endless litigation and be available for promoting the institution of marriage between a man and a woman to bring out birth rate out of the negative to a rate that encourages our population to at least remain the same.