New law commission to tackle tough legal issues and reforms

The new Law Commission of Ontario (LCO), announced Nov. 30 by Attorney General Michael Bryant (LLB ’92), will be situated at York University.

Ontario has not had a law reform commission since 1995, and the new LCO will be a joint effort involving the government and its partners: Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, the Law Foundation of Ontario, the Law Society of Upper Canada, Ontario’s other law schools, and the legal community. It will be headed by a Board of Governors, which includes:

  • Neil Finkelstein, partner, Blake, Cassels and Graydon LLP
  • Frank Iacobucci, Torys’ counsel and retired justice of the Supreme Court of Canada
  • James C. MacPherson, justice of the Court of Appeal for Ontario and former dean of Osgoode
  • Patrick Monahan, dean, Osgoode Hall Law School
  • Murray Segal, deputy attorney general of Ontario

“The goal is to create a modern, relevant and responsive commission that will bring forward recommendations to improve the administration of Ontario’s justice system and enhance access to justice,” said Bryant. “For many years, the previous law reform commission was an important instrument of change in our province’s legal system. It was known to forward progressive ideas, ask tough questions and engage in creative, innovative, critical thinking. Our justice system needs the same capacity today.”

Left: Michael Bryant

The commission’s mandate will be to work with government, the legal profession, the judiciary, the faculties and students of all Ontario law schools, and the public to:

  • Examine issues of significant interest and importance;
  • Develop recommendations designed to improve the administration of Ontario’s justice system;
  •  Enhance access to justice; and
  •  Make the justice system more accessible and equitable by using modern technologies to collect and distribute legal knowledge and research.

      “The new Law Commission of Ontario will provide significant opportunities for Osgoode’s faculty and students to participate in law reform work,” said Osgoode Dean Patrick Monahan. “York University will provide funding for teaching release for an Osgoode faculty member to participate in the research being undertaken by the law commission.”

      Right: Patrick Monahan

      Monahan said the formation of the LCO was an important development for the province of Ontario and for law education. “Students and faculty members working in the law commission will examine issues in a number of areas. For example, they’ll look at ways to improve access to justice by the public, the high cost of legal services, and how to use Internet technologies to make justice services more accessible to the public.”

      Monahan described the new commission as a “new age law commission” with a strong mandate to tackle issues and law reform.

      Government policymakers are typically required to respond to legal issues of immediate concern within the mandate of elected officials. The new LCO will be an independent commission and Monahan said its researchers will tackle projects involving issues that might not be easily or quickly resolved such as unrepresented litigants in the courts, combating excessive delays in the administration of justice, or drug and alcohol testing in the workplace.

      The LCO has secure financing for five years, said Monahan, and will initially be located in a temporary office on the Keele campus. The LCO will move to its permanent headquarters in the Osgoode Hall Law School building once renovations and an expansion have been completed.