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A Degraded Justice: Ontario’s Bill 117 A License to Perjury Submission to the Standing Committee on Justice and Social Policy

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The Good News First

There are judges currently sitting in the Ontario Courts who are nationally renowned and admired for the progressive decisions they have made concerning false allegations, parental alienation, and the principals which result in defining shared parenting as in the best interests of children. These judges are known for testing the evidence, and weighing its consequences in a fair and respectable manner, and their caselaw has spread to use in provinces outside of Ontario. In Manitoba, there were those of us who loved these judges no less, for they demonstrated no bias for one gender or another and they knew the difference between a true and a false allegation. I would like to take a moment to bow in appreciation to these excellent Ontario judges.

Ontario Courts of Family Law have already made a fine start by establishing many court- attached services that will only improve with time, and Ontario is also remarkably welcoming to those who represent their own interests before the court. This is in contrast to Manitoba, where self-representation is so rare that judges have an immediate aversion to anyone who attempts the task, and their decisions reflect their discomfort to any contact with litigants. Legal Aid practices in Ontario are a severe impediment to justice2 and many more people choose to represent themselves in this province as a result. It is still very encouraging to see how the courts of Ontario view the practice of self representation.

Manitoba included all crimes involving families as a dedicated adjunct of the family court system, along with the first "zero tolerance” policy towards domestic violence in Canada. The benefit of this system is that research is far easier to gather on family violence statistics, but the suspension of due process that came with the zero tolerance policy created significant problems. In August 2000, noted domestic violence researcher Jane Ursel noted that a 47% dismissal rate of all cases brought forward meant that alternative dispute resolutions outside the criminal charge model had to be considered, and police required “discretion” in the decision to lay charges. It became clear, even to domestic violence researchers like Ursel, that a conviction can not be obtained by the criminal standard of evidence without any substantiating evidence

Ontario must find a way to eliminate these problems. One way, certainly, is to allow contact with the judicial community from a more varied set of stakeholders. My observation from here is that the Ontario family court is quickly developing an almost exclusive relationship with the interests of the domestic violence lobby, with little or no consideration for other stakeholders such as the victims of perjury, false ex parte orders, gender biased custody decisions and bankrupting legal fees, that is, such people as are found in the non-custodial family community. There are great judges making excellent decisions, but these decisions are not followed by the brethen of the court, resulting in unfair and devastating outcomes for many. Several judges have developed hardened reputations for biased decisions and ill preparation on a regular basis that results in the public perceiving the courts to be unfair and corrupt.

We would also encourage the Committee to recommend significant funding resources to establish an effective court-attached custody and access assessment service. Some of the best

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To be discussed in a later section.

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