Seeking Fair and Affordable Access to Justice in Ontario sign now

While the regulation of paralegals has the potential to improve the quality and availability of legal services available to Ontarians, the lawyer-controlled Law Society of Upper Canada should not be the body responsible for doing so.

With the implementation of the so-called 'Access to Justice Act in 2007 (Bill 14), the Ontario government has worsened an access-to-justice crisis that as noted by Canadian Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverly McLaughlin, is "imperilling the country's legal system, which is now too expensive and complicated for the vast majority of Canadians."

The 'Un-Access' to Justice Act has effectively handed over the governance of paralegals to their competitors - the Law Society of Upper Canada, which is controlled by and traditionally governs lawyers. The Act further limits the scope of legal activities a paralegal can engage in; for example barring them from Family Court proceedings (leaving those without the means for full legal fees to fend for themselves).

The resulting stranglehold over the paralegal profession has exacerbated an already burdened legal system, adding to lengthy delays, soaring fees and a broader inequality in accessing legal representation. The potential anti-competitive implications have even raised the eyebrow of the Federal Competition Bureau.

Such perverse results should come as no surprise. No less than two separate investigations into the proposed regulation of paralegals - in and of itself a good idea - advised against placing this responsibility with the Law Society. Occurring a decade apart, both the late Professor Ron Ianni (then President of the University of Western Ontario) and then Superior Court Justice Peter Cory recommended against the Law Society taking control of paralegals (in the name of conflict of interest). Unfortunately such wisdom fell on deaf ears.

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Noting the above, we the undersigned, support a constitutional challenge to the Law Society's handling of paralegal regulation. In the interim, we call on the Society to take all measures to ensure fair and affordable access to legal representation for all Ontarians. Legal challenges to the Act, such as the one currently before the Law Society by paralegal Harry Koptyo, are similarly supported, with a view to enhancing the public's access to justice.

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Elsa FoleyBy:
School and EducationIn:
Petition target:
The Law Society of Upper Canada and the Government of Ontario

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