Chief justice calls for new family court system

Published On Tue Sep 13 2011

Ontario judges attend an interfaith service at Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011 to mark opening of new term for the courts.


Ontario’s family justice system “cries out for reform,” says Chief Justice Warren Winkler, who is urging the province and federal government to start talks on merging a patchwork web of services into a “unified family court.”

“Our current family law system is too slow, too complex, too adversarial, and above all, too costly,” Winkler says in a speech to be delivered Tuesday afternoon at the yearly ceremony to open a new term for Ontario’s courts.

“In order to clear the way for the type of comprehensive reform that I believe necessary and have spoken about frequently, we have to extend the unified family court beyond the current 17 sites to the entire province,” he said.

Winkler is scheduled to deliver his remarks in at the University Ave. courthouse at the annual event attended by federal and provincial justice officials and the judiciary.

The justice system’s greatest challenge is ensuring residents of the province can actually use it and “proper access to justice” hinges having enough physical resources in place that cases can be heard in a timely manner, he said.

The same holds true for increasing criminal caseloads, the chief justice added.

“Not surprisingly, I was disappointed to learn of the cancellation of the planned Toronto West courthouse.”

Finance Minister Dwight Duncan announced last March the project was being cancelled in an attempt to save $181 million.

While there doesn’t currently seem to be much appetite for courthouse construction, Winkler said there's a “particularly urgent” need for a new courthouse in downtown Toronto to “supplement” the facility at 361 University Ave.

“The continued failure to address this need increases the risk of intractable delays in hearing cases and thus potential miscarriages of justice,” he said.