Ontario Court of Appeal resolves access rights between parents and maternal grandparents

The case involved the court's jurisdiction to enforce access dates for three children

Ontario Court of Appeal resolves access rights between parents and maternal grandparents

The Ontario Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal by The Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, affirming an order regarding access rights to three children between their parents and maternal grandparents.

The dispute in Children's Aid Society of Toronto v. R.I., 2024 ONCA 9 centred on the jurisdiction of a judge to enforce access dates for three children between their parents and maternal grandparents following their removal by the Society under the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017.

The controversy began after a four-day trial in November 2022, where it was decided that two children should live with their parents and the third with the maternal grandparents, all under the Society's supervision. Specific monthly access terms were set, including transportation responsibilities for the grandparents. However, alleged breaches of these terms in January 2023 led to legal challenges regarding enforcing these access provisions.

The Society contended that the Ontario Court of Justice judge lacked the authority to enforce the motion brought by the Office of the Children’s Lawyer on behalf of one child. It argued that the Child, Youth and Family Services Act served as a complete code for child protection matters, excluding the possibility of such enforcement under the Courts of Justice Act and the Family Law Rules.

The appeal to the Superior Court of Justice, and subsequently to the Court of Appeal, raised questions about the jurisdiction of courts to enforce their orders, the procedural fairness of the hearings, and the potential bias of judges involved in the case. The Society’s appeal was predicated on the belief that the enforcement motion required the initiation of a new legal proceeding, contrary to the principle of avoiding a multiplicity of legal actions.

In its analysis, the Ontario Court of Appeal clarified that the Court of Justice judge retained jurisdiction to ensure compliance with her orders. It emphasized that enforcement of an order is an integral part of a case, as explicitly recognized in the Family Law Rules. The court rejected the Society’s argument that initiating a new proceeding was necessary for enforcement, highlighting that such an approach would contradict efforts to simplify legal processes and resolve issues efficiently.

Moreover, the court found no reasonable apprehension of bias in the conduct of the Superior Court of Justice judge who initially heard the appeal. It noted that attempts to encourage resolution and comments made about the judges of the Ontario Court of Justice did not demonstrate bias or undermine the judge's impartiality. Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal.

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