Sunday, December 14, 2008

Revolution Required to Reform Justice in Ontario

For several months, The Toronto Star carried articles on the so-called justice system. This is a sore point for me, and I'm not sure I'm yet ready to write on it, but I am glad to see murmurings that something ought to be done.

We have judges whose stupidity rivals that of the village idiot; rules that are casually tossed aside when lawyers for both sides (sans any input from clients, I might add) agree they need to; too few court rooms for the numbers of cases; moralistic ideas about money infecting judgements and negotiations instead of pragmatic acknowledgement of what it takes to pay for health costs being considered; a system set up as a game that lawyers and judges thrive on while the client and their needs get forgotten; a system that has evolved over the centuries into a complexity of rules and oneupmanship that over-rides the whole reason for it in the first place; costs that make legal action beyond the purview of the middle class while legal aid is only for the extremely poor; a system that demonizes normal human interactions and actions; cases that drag on so long that by the time it's over, even insurance companies collapse in exhaustion. In short, we don't have a justice system -- as people are fond of saying -- but neither do we have a legal system. We have a game that lawyers and judges play while being paid by people who can ill afford it and who suffer the consequences.

We need reform. Ontario Chief Justice Warren Winkler (interviewed by Tracey Tyler, The Toronto Star, 2 July 2008), says it needs to change. "I think we need a culture shift." That's a culture shift in the law offices and courtrooms of the province, I believe he's referring to. But we need more than just a shift; we need a revolution.

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