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Editorial: Crisis looming

Let it be noted that I do not think technological upgrades are a panacea to all the challenges facing the legal profession. However, when I repeatedly hear about the surge of self-represented litigants and the many challenges facing people involved in family law disputes, I am concerned about the disconnect between the formal legal profession and the wider society the law is meant to serve.

This is to say nothing of ensuring the rights of the accused are met. From the issues outlined by criminal defence lawyers about technological gaps they grapple with, there is much to be concerned about.

As is outlined in Law Times, these issues mean Ontario defence lawyers are routinely dealing with fax machines, incompatible police software, mountains of paper and in-person discussions for many matters. Meanwhile, lawyers say methods such as e-filing, Internet access and methods of accessing information, like through the cloud, are not common. But wait. It appears there may be another way.

“If you want to get legal work done, Alberta is much better,” says Alan Pearse, a Toronto-based lawyer who specializes in defending impaired driving cases in multiple provinces, including Ontario.

For example, Pearse says, there is a significant difference between Ontario and Alberta, where the provincial government has implemented a practice where disclosure in criminal cases can be accessed by defence counsel from a secure online service.

Many corners of the legal profession have lamented the technological gaps in the Ontario system. However, when these gaps are articulated by lawyers who practise criminal law, the cumulative effect of such barriers becomes particularly troubling. Sticking one’s head in the sand will not make the problem disappear.

Sooner or later, there will be a thorny case or devastating crisis that emerges from these lags. This will reach the Supreme Court of Canada for redress, or worse yet, for those in power, the media.

  • Consumer Advocate

    Barbara Captijn
    Good points, thank you for writing this article. The License Appeal Tribunal (for Tarion appeals) is another disturbing example of self-rep litigants faced with complex legal processes and an imbalance of power. Examples of "missing recordings" at the LAT always seem to disadvantage the self-reps. Recently a troubling example of bullying allegations and missing recordings. SLASTO, the LAT oversight body, says they may in future eliminate transcripts altogether. How can the public see this as justice if there's no official record of what went on? Seems a step backwards in creating public confidence in the justice system.

    B.Captijn, Consumer Advocate

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