Attorney General Chris Bentley believes a new information system will help improve access to justice by “taking the mystery out of the law” for ordinary Ontarians.
“We should be able to invite anyone from the street into our legal system and give them the assistance they need to navigate, even though they don’t have a law degree,” said Bentley last week at the Toronto Reference Library, where the province’s new Justice Ontario system was unveiled.
The system, which Bentley called a “one-stop entry point” to legal information, consists of a web site and telephone hotline that provide basic information about family law, criminal law, lawsuits and disputes, human rights, estate planning, and tickets and fines.
It’s similar to the province’s ServiceOntario system, which offers help accessing government services, and Employment Ontario, which provides advice on training and work-related issues.
While the bulk of information on the web site (www.ontario.ca/justiceontario) will be available only in English and French, the hotline (1-866-252-0104) will link callers with translators in 173 languages to get the same information on services such as lawyer referrals.
Bentley said recent reports - including this year’s Trebilcock Legal Aid Review and 2007’s Osborne Civil Justice Report - have found that easier access to relevant information on the law is vital to improving access to justice.
Bentley hopes to improve the site’s features through a partnership with the province’s major legal bodies, including the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Ontario Bar Association, the Advocates’ Society, the County and District Law Presidents’ Association, the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association, Legal Aid Ontario, Community Legal Education Ontario, and Pro Bono Law Ontario.
A list of frequently asked questions will be created, and the partners will help the government ensure that the information and links on the web site are “as strong and clear as they need to be,” said Bentley.