As part of its domestic violence strategy, Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) has developed a three-year action plan. The blueprint comes after months of consultations with survivors, partners in the Violence against Women community and other legal and community service providers. During these consultations, LAO received a lot of feedback on how the organization can enhance its support for domestic violence clients.
“LAO recognizes that survivors are the experts in their own experience of domestic violence—and they have an important role to play in the development of solutions,” says Michelle Squires, who leads the domestic violence strategy. “Our action plan focuses on making it easier for people to get help from us—particularly on a local level, where we can work with community agencies to develop a support system that works together to help those who need it.”
Squires says that the action plan also looks at finding ways to ensure that those who help survivors are specifically trained on how they can best help.
Over the next three years, LAO’s aim is to expand and improve services for domestic violence clients.
The plan will:
make it easier for those subjected to domestic violence to access services
improve the way LAO staff, community legal clinic staff, and lawyers provide help by training them to understand the complicated legal needs of domestic violence clients
look at ways for LAO to work with community groups to provide the supports that don’t currently exist
By continuing to work in strong partnership with partners in the justice and social service sectors—and directly with those who are subjected to domestic violence—LAO’s strategy will help address the many connected legal issues that clients currently face.
Teens and young adults have highest rates of suicide attempts, most difficulty getting mental health care
Young people between 16 and 24 years old have more challenges than other age groups in getting mental health and addiction services in Canada, a new study comparing mental health care across five provinces has found.
“Wherever we looked, they were the group that had the poorest access to care,” said Dr. Paul Kurdyak, senior scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) and co-author of the report.
“This is a real problem because this is the age at which mental illnesses have their first onset. So you want really rapid access,” said Kurdyak, who is also a psychiatrist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto.
Province Working to Recruit More Judges from Indigenous and Diverse Communities
Ontario is working to promote greater diversity and improve gender balance in appointments to the Ontario Court of Justice.
Working with the Ontario Court of Justice and the Ministry of the Attorney General, the province’s independent Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee (JAAC) is taking steps to encourage legal professionals from diverse communities to apply to become judges, including:
Changing the judicial application form to include an option to self-identify as Indigenous, belonging to a racialized community or other ethnic or cultural group, a person with a disability, LGBTQ2+, or by gender
Increasing outreach, advertising and informational sessions to law associations and students across the province to reach a wider and more diverse audience
Participating in a roundtable with representatives from the bar and federal government on increasing the diversity in provincial and federal judicial appointments
Collecting race-based data on judicial applicants and new appointments to strengthen future reporting on diversity.
In addition, the committee is consulting with the Ontario Human Rights Commission to strengthen committee member training and education to ensure that the process of recruitment of new judges addresses possible systemic barriers.
Building on the work of Ontario’s anti-racism strategic plan, increasing diversity in appointments to the province’s courts seeks to break down barriers for Indigenous peoples, racialized groups, Francophone communities, women and other minority communities across the province.
The JAAC is composed of seven members appointed by the Attorney General, two judges appointed by the Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice, one member appointed by the Ontario Judicial Council and three from the legal community appointed by The Law Society of Upper Canada, Ontario Bar Association and the County and District Law Presidents’ Association.
Ontario Court of Justice judges and justices of the peace are appointed by the Attorney General on the recommendation of the JAAC and JPAAC, respectively.
The justice of the peace application form currently includes an option to self-identify as Indigenous, and of the justices of the peace appointed on June 30 and July 28, 2017, seven are Indigenous peoples.
Since July 2016, the Attorney General has appointed 32 judges to the Ontario Court of Justice, including four bilingual judges, and one regional senior justice.
As of July 28, 2017, the Attorney General has appointed 38 justices of the peace to the Ontario Court of Justice.
“One of Ontario’s greatest strengths is its diversity. It is important that this diversity be reflected in our judiciary – to the benefit of our entire justice system and the communities it serves. Together, with the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee, we are building a more accessible and modern justice system that is responsive to the needs everyone in Ontario.”
“We are working diligently to improve the judicial application process to attract diverse and expert applicants from the Ontario legal community. Our efforts also include additional training to understand the implications of unconscious bias in the recruitment and selection process.
Thank you to the province and the Ontario Court of Justice for their support in our efforts to recruit a diverse and gender balanced selection of candidates for appointment to the judiciary.”
“To build trust in the justice system, it is important that our judiciary reflect the full diversity of our community. The Ontario Human Rights Commission is pleased to provide its expertise to the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee to assist with achieving this important goal. We remain committed to using our promotion and education functions to assist the legal profession and judiciary to identify and challenge systemic discrimination.”
Ontario’s top court has thrown out sexual-assault convictions against a man accused of abusing his five-year-old cousin, in the latest case in which trial judges have been criticized for applying unfair legal standards to accused male perpetrators.
In this case, as in previous ones, the Ontario Court of Appeal points to an overemphasis on believing the victim, which has the effect of making the accused demonstrate his innocence, and runs counter to a central principle of the criminal-justice system – that the prosecution bears the burden of proving guilt. It also challenges a view among sexual-assault crisis centres and others that victims are too often not believed.
Women’s advocates say that when appellate courts toss out convictions in sexual-assault cases, it deters victims from coming forward to police.
Only white people have ever sat on the Supreme Court of Canada. Some believe it is high time this should change, while others continue to defend the idea of “merit” as the basis for appointments, evidently finding nothing suspicious about an ostensibly meritocratic system in which only white people rise to the highest positions. The fact is the homogeneity of the lily-white court is a severe weakness and has the practical effect of ensuring a white and privileged worldview remains ascendant in Canadian law.
The number of self-described sexual assault victims who went to police dropped 15 per cent over the past decade, newly released data shows, once again shining a spotlight on a persistent issue in Canada: why aren’t victims coming forward, and how can they be encouraged to do so?