Courts Reopening: Letter to AG Downey

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

As courts across the country are announcing their reopenings, we have been working diligently to ensure the safety, health and security of our members.  The adequacy of the reopening plans from a health and safety perspective vary greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and sometimes from court to court within a jurisdiction.  We are responding to the court reopenings on a case-by-case basis. 

However, the situation in Ontario is an opportunity to set the standard for the entire country.  If we can establish clear, baseline standards for health and safety in Ontario courts, we can use that to set a precedent on which other jurisdictions must build.  At a minimum, other jurisdictions will be guided to duplicate the Ontario standards.  The flip side of the coin is that if Ontario can get away with inadequate health and safety protocols in relation to reopening its courts, then other jurisdictions may also adopt these inadequate standards.

The AJC, along with provincial Crown attorneys and counsel, legal aid lawyers and courthouse staff have presented a unified front to express our concerns with the Ministry of the Attorney General’s plans for the reopening of courts in Ontario. You can read the letter sent to minister Downey here.

This past week the Ontario Crown Attorneys Association filed an application in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice seeking an injunction to prevent the reopening of Ontario courts currently scheduled for July 6th, 2020, until such time as adequate health and safety measures are put in place. The AJC supports this measure and is looking at how best we can assist the OCAA.

As well, we continue to work with both PPSC and DoJ in this same regard. Our emphasis has been to secure the wearing of masks at all times in courthouses, ensuring the employing department confirm the status of the courthouse HVAC systems and cleaning protocols, as well as equip lawyers with a “safety tool kit” that includes an appropriate response and action plan with what to do and who to contact/report to information in case of observed non-compliance where they feel at risk.