10.12The Hamilton project was established to implement recommendations contained in a report of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee on Mediation in Family Law.1064 The Attorney General established a Court Reform Task Force to organize the project. Comprehensive family mediation was offered. The mediators who were social workers were assisted by lawyers. The mediators received training in property and financial matters and learned how to identify legal issues that needed the advice of independent lawyers. Local lawyers offered voluntary assistance. If financial issues were to be mediated, couples had to obtain independent legal advice. The intake procedure screened for domestic abuse.
10.13The Ontario Civil Justice Review conducted by the Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice and the Ministry of the Attorney General, advocated videos on family law and procedure.1065 “Viewing of this video would become a mandatory pre-condition for entering the family law court process, with the exception of emergency applications”.1066 This would encourage early intervention which may lead the parties in the right direction to try and resolve matters in dispute.
10.14The Review also recommended that in the original Notice of Application to be filed to initiate proceedings, an applicant would have to state what previous efforts to use alternative dispute resolution had been attempted, and if not, to state why they were not appropriate. A “resolution focused process” for family law would be assisted by settlement conferences and trial management conferences which had in fact been piloted in some courts.
10.15The Final Report1067 recommended a mandatory case conference before interim relief is sought, subject to the exception of emergency applications. Individual timetables would be established for each case. Outstanding issues would be identified and memoranda of agreements completed, future events in the court process would be scheduled and referral to ADR considered. The revised court process stresses the importance of mediation by its initial screening and diversion mechanisms during the course of proceedings. The report noted the expansion of a unified Family Court to five areas of the province. The video referred to earlier would be accompanied by oral presentations by legal and mental health professionals.1068 The Final Report concluded by recommending a separate Family Justice Review because of the complexity of family law.
10.16The pattern of mediation services growing out of counselling services attached to the court is also mirrored in the Family Conciliation services (FCS) of
1064February 1989. See Alberta Research Paper no.20, infra at 30.
1065 Civil Justice Review First Report, (1995).
1066 Ibid at 276.
1067 Civil Justice Review Final Report, November 1996.
1068 As part of the goal of disseminating more information on family law, Ottawa has launched its first Family Law Information Centre with one- stop access to information on a broad range of family law topics. See Internet site, http://www.newswire.ca/government/ontario/english/releases/March1998.