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Bringing the fight for Access to Justice to the OFL Convention floor

November 29, 2023

The Society delegation at the Ontario Federation of Labour’s biennial Convention worked hard to see resolutions important to Society members come to the floor, and continued to get results for our members throughout the Convention.

On Wednesday, the resolution put forward by our Legal Aid Ontario Local, calling for more funding and resources to be put into Ontario’s legal system, passed with unanimous support from Labour delegates.

The resolution seeks to address the urgent need to ensure there are sufficient judges, adjudicators, clerks, court staff, and courtrooms for justice to be done. Right now, there is no justice in Ontario’s justice system, because the sad reality is that many people cannot get a day in court. The backlog in all courts and tribunals across Ontario is significant. Human rights cases are taking years to be heard, criminal charges also do not reach trial for years and are sometimes stayed or dismissed as a result, while landlord-tenant hearings take many months to be heard. In Ontario, for family and civil matters, it currently takes almost one-and-a-half years for a motion longer than two hours to be heard by a judge in Toronto; more than one-and-a-half years after the trial management conference (or more than four to five years from the issuance of the original application) for a three-week family law trial to be heard by a judge in Brampton; and more than four to five years for a civil action to proceed from commencement to trial. Meanwhile, people – accused persons, victims, witnesses, tenants, landlords, and other litigants – are suffering waiting for matters to be addressed, if they are heard at all.

It was important for our Legal Aid Ontario Local to be able to put these issues in front of convention delegates to help make them aware of deep problems that exist in our justice system. Too often only those involved in the justice system know about its challenges. It means so much to our members to be able to bring awareness to the thousands of workers represented on the floor of convention and to know that they have the backing of the entire Labour Movement.

This has been a big week for our Legal Aid Ontario members. Last Thursday, Society President Michelle Johnston, Local Vice-President Dana Fisher, Unit Director Alika Hendricks, and Delegate Bo Arfai had a productive meeting with Ontario’s Attorney General to raise these same issues with him. This meeting is the first piece of what we hope will be a productive working relationship between the Society and the Attorney General.

On another note, the Society congratulates the LAO Local for getting their interest arbitration award on November 18, after a drawn-out year-and-a-half of bargaining. The Local is very happy with the result and the award will make a substantial material difference to the members they represent.

Congratulation to the LAO Local members for all of their recent successes.

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