Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ontario A.G. Chris Bentley at Toronto Family Law Summit

I'm spending today and tomorrow attending (via live videostream) the Law Society of Upper Canada's 5th Annual Family Law Summit at Toronto.

Ontario Attorney General Chris Bentley has just concluded a short speech, recapping the Province's family law initiatives launched during his four-year tenure in the role.

In opening, Mr. Bentley candidly remarked that he likely knows less about family law than any other person attending the Summit. He did little to dispel that impression in the remainder of a twenty-minute, rather self-congratulatory presentation that was surprisingly short on substance.

Here are a few highlights from the speech, which I've also been live-tweeting:
  • The A.G. favours a Unified Family Court throughout the Province, but noted that the constitutional issues presented by overlapping federal and provincial jurisdictions in family law present an obstacle, as the Province can't create these courts on its own. While his enthusiasm for streamlining family law with one, unified system was clear, he made no mention of any consultations with the federal government aimed at actually getting there.
  • On simplifying the court system by "getting rid of the paper and streamlining steps in the Family Courts," the A.G. was clear that he "won't do it." Curiously, he indicated he simply leaves it to the legal profession to address these concerns. I am not sure how the profession can directly facilitate any of the real solutions here, such as a court system that allows e-filing of documents or the elimination of duplicative court forms, at least some of which result from the Attorney General's own initiatives.
  • Finally, with respect to the long-awaited implementation of the pension-equalization reforms provided for in Bill 133, Mr. Bentley stated "the period of consultations is over... An announcement on implementation will be made very, very soon." There were audible groans from the audience in response to this remark. Bill 133 received Royal Assent in May, 2009. The legislation's pension reform has been in limbo ever since, awaiting necessary, enabling regulations.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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