Ontario is the most densely populated province in Canada and one imagines its court system is as well. Quite surprisingly, Ontario legal procedure is rather antiquated in some regards. The inability to submit court documents for filing online causes great frustration to many lawyers. Under the status quo, most lawyers hire process servers to take a physical document to the court registry for filing. But those days may be coming to an end.
On perusing Queen’s Park Hansard for October 22, 2015, one sees mention of Bill 85, Strengthening and Improving Government Act. Bill 85 affects 15 statutes, one of which being the Provincial Offences Act, which may be amended as follows:
Electronic court documents
76.1 (1) A document that is required or authorized to be filed, given or delivered to a court office or the clerk of the court under this Act may, in accordance with the regulations, be filed, given or delivered electronically.
(2) An electronic document that is filed, given or delivered to a court office or the clerk of the court may be signed electronically in accordance with the regulations.
Bill 85 deals with provincial offences and not family law, but it is a step in the right direction for the family law system. Assuming a nominal filing fee, as is common in other jurisdictions, electronic filing is poised to put a few hundred dollars back in clients’ pockets because it reduces the role of the process server. This shift will undoubtedly hurt process servers, but online filing seems long overdue in Ontario. Only time will tell whether it becomes a reality.
Jeffrey L. Hartman