Ontario planning to introduce digital court system

·2 min read

TORONTO — Ontario is planning to introduce a digital court system that will allow people to access court information from anywhere, and file documents and pay fees online.

Attorney General Doug Downey said it will transform the court system for everyone who interacts with it.

"I’m really excited about this foundational transformation, and it’s probably bigger than people even imagine," he said in an interview Friday. "This is potentially the biggest investment in the justice system in Ontario, in the history of Ontario."

Downey said he's not able to disclose a dollar figure yet, as the technology is in the procurement process and he hopes to have a deal signed by the end of the fiscal year.

The system should allow people to submit documents, access court information, schedule matters and appearances, pay fees, and receive decisions electronically.

The courts have been notoriously slow to adopt elements of modern, technological life, though COVID-19 forced the rapid implementation of some digital measures. Downey said he was moving on modernization even without the pandemic, but it has showed that many of those things are possible.

Downey said the goal is for court users to be able to do everything digitally from start to finish, but paper services should still be available for those who can't access online functions.

It's something the Ontario government has tried before but ultimately ended up scrapping in favour of a piecemeal approach to modernization.

The former Liberal government spent years trying to implement a Court Information Management System with many of the same goals of allowing electronic access to court records, but abandoned it in 2013 after spending $10.3 million.

Downey said this project will come to fruition.

"This isn’t a concept. This is actually happening," he said. "The system is way far behind where it should be."

As for whether journalists are included in the court users who will get digital access to court documents, Downey said he believes in the open court principle, but there will have to be a discussion among the profession about what types of records and information should be public and what shouldn't.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 5, 2021.

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press

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