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Published on Thursday, July 13, 2017

New Oakville courthouse will be high tech

Attorney General says courts need to modernize

New Oakville courthouse will be high tech
Attorney General Yasir Naqvi
New Oakville courthouse will be able to deliver 21st century justice, Naqvi says
By Nathan Howes, Oakville Beaver

Acknowledging Canada’s judicial system is “bogged down” by delays, Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi says the best way to make it more efficient is by embracing technology.

That was the key message behind Naqvi’s presentation Thursday, July 13 at Oakville’s Harbour Banquet & Conference Centre.

The Oakville Chamber of Commerce-hosted breakfast, which drew an attendance of close to 100 people, was the attorney general’s first public address to the Chamber, its members and local business community.

Naqvi, who also serves as the Government House Leader and Ottawa Centre MPP, discussed problems with the country’s judicatory system and how the federal and provincial governments can utilize technology more.

“We really have not seen a very comprehensive, unified approach in using technology, when it comes to making the (justice) system more efficient,” said Naqvi.

“In 2017, when I can pick up my phone and open an app to do pretty much everything, it does not make sense that we are running a justice system, which is so important to our day-to-day functioning, in the old paper format.”

He noted the judicial system has begun embracing technology, including in small claims court, which utilizes electronic filing (e-filing), resulting in more than 50 per cent of claims being filed online.

Civil matters can also be e-filed in five municipalities in Ontario – Newmarket, Ottawa, Sudbury, Brampton and Toronto – while Oakville residents will get the ability to do so beginning this fall.

“These are civil matters that tend to be more complex. We’re creating that opportunity to be able to file matters online. We’re doing the same thing with family law, moving to online to do child support payments. You don’t have to go into a courthouse,” said Naqvi.

There will also be opportunities for various tribunals to expand digitally, he said, citing the landlord and tenant boards or the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) as examples.

“But, we’ve just started. We’re nowhere close to being where we need to be,” Naqvi admitted.

Ideally, speaking from the provincial government perspective and where it wants to be, he suggested people would be able to use online dispute resolutions, in some cases, and use already-accessible tools to get legal matters resolved.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us, but I strongly feel those are the really important structural changes that we have to make,” said Naqvi.

Infrastructure also has a “very important” role to improve the judicial system, the MPP said, citing Halton’s recently-announced, state-of-the-art courthouse as an example.

Naqvi called the court, which is to be located in Oakville, near the new Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital, a model for all future law buildings the Province will construct, as it will be fully-integrated with technology, allowing the government to “do things better.”

“We are working really hard to ensure we’ve got the enabling fundamentals in that courthouse, when it comes to access to Wi-Fi, closed-circuit televisions, so you can have witnesses from remote areas participate in the proceedings,” said Naqvi.

A move towards incorporating technology in the judicial system does have challenges, though, Naqvi said, including privacy issues because governments will be dealing with “very sensitive” information and commercial matters.

He also acknowledged it may not be simple to make the complete switch to digital since the current system, as it is handled today, is something “we’ve been taught to do and we feel comfortable doing it.”

“We have a bit of a reluctance to using technology. In my view, none of them are good reasons to continue with the status quo. We need to make some real strides in using technology,” said Naqvi.

Following the Ontario attorney general’s remarks, Fyon Lyons, vice-president of government relations and advocacy at the Oakville Chamber, moderated a Q-and-A session with Naqvi.

He was asked if the Province supports the federal government’s proposed marijuana legalization bill, which, if passed, would take effect by July 2018, and if regulations would need to change in Ontario to reflect it.

Naqvi, who has been monitoring the proposal, acknowledged the control of drugs has always been a federal government jurisdiction, so provinces don’t have a say in legalization.

However, the provinces will have a responsibility in how cannabis is distributed in retail and the minimum age for consumption, as well as in public health and road safety, he added.

“All provinces, Ontario included, have been working very hard for several months in developing regulatory framework, in response to legalization. If we don’t, there is a free-for-all,” said Naqvi.
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Author: Mayor Rob Burton

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