OBA's Ontario Legal Conference to host panel of judges, discuss access to justice in criminal law

Program features an event on neurodiversity in the legal profession

OBA's Ontario Legal Conference to host panel of judges, discuss access to justice in criminal law
Kelly McDermott, OBA president

The Ontario Bar Association’s upcoming Ontario Legal Conference will include a panel of four judges who will discuss the most pressing issues impacting criminal lawyers, including access to justice amid monumental court delays.

The program, “Perspective from the Bench,” will be from 6-7 pm EST on Wednesday. The speakers are Ontario Court Justices Susan Chapman and Ferhan Javed and Superior Court Justices Faisal Mirza and Gillian Roberts. They will discuss expectations for counsel at contested bail hearings and in proposing and crossing sureties, and the elements of a robust Charter application and response.

“It fits neatly into the OBA’s ongoing commitment to access to justice,” says Kelly McDermott, OBA president. “We wanted to provide a forum for the criminal bar – both the crown and defence – to engage with the bench directly with our common goal of providing timely access to justice for the most vulnerable in our society.”

McDermott says she expects the session to generate a practical discussion and tips for parties to ensure the criminal courts run efficiently at all stages of the proceedings, similar to the OBA’s Bail the Boat event last summer, which sought to address Ontario’s backed-up civil court system.

“We expect the dialogue from that program to be really rich and drive some ideas for change.”

McDermott says the OBA has launched a civil justice reform task force focused on long-term improvements for modernization and creating efficiency in the court system. The OBA is also advocating for more virtual hearings to “enable cross-regional judicial support in courthouses,” she says.

The program chairs for Perspective from the Bench are Megan Stephens and Magdalena Wyszomiersk.

The OBA’s Ontario Legal Conference will also feature a program on family, estates, and real estate law. The sessions include one covering practice management tips, one on the top Court of Appeal cases impacting family law, and one on current trends and caselaw updates for estates and trusts lawyers.

The municipal, planning, and environmental law program will feature an update on the Ontario Land Tribunal, a session outlining strong mayor powers, and sessions covering the latest caselaw and the Reference Re Impact Assessment Act Supreme Court of Canada decision.

There will also be a networking breakfast for sole practitioners and small firms, which will include a “special wellness event.”

On Thursday at 11:45, Wanda Deschamps, founder and principal of Liberty Co, will give a presentation on neurodiversity inclusion in the legal profession.

“That's quite near and dear to my heart,” says McDermott. “This really fits in well with my peer support mandate around ensuring that lawyers living with disabilities are included, are accommodated, and continue to live their best lives inside their practice and inside their lives as lawyers.”

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