Since this is my first post, I should introduce myself: Patricia Hughes, Executive Director of the Law Commission of Ontario. Simon Fodden invited me to become a Slaw blogger after I talked to him about my writing a blog on the LCO website. I thought it would be a better idea to bring my neophyte blogging skills to Slaw than to the LCO. Slaw has credibility that I can’t ruin, while at the LCO, we are still building credibility! So, to start, a bit about us ….
I’ll be blogging mainly about the LCO, at least at the beginning, until I start the LCO blog (although I am tempted to respond to Simon’s post on his love of pens and pencils; one of my most memorable Christmas presents long ago — not long after we came to Canada — were two boxes of 24 coloured pencils to which my mother had added a gold and a silver one, to make an even 50; now I buy Vpens in all their vibrancy).
The LCO was launched just about a year ago, on September 7, 2007, as a partnership of the Law Foundation of Ontario, the Law Society of Ontario, the Ministry of the Attorney General, Osgoode Hall Law School (all of whom provide funding) and the other Ontario law schools. For those with fond memories of the Ontario Law Reform Commission, you’ll know that this was more than a decade after it was effectively abolished.
We have an initial five year mandate, but since that actually began in January 2007, it is rapidly running out, even though our actual operations didn’t start until last September and the first member of our staff (Staff Lawyer, Lauren Bates) didn’t begin until February 1st. We’re officially located at Osgoode, but pending renovations there, we are currently at the far side of the York campus, at Keele and Steeles in the Computer Methods Building (in line with the smokestakes, but closer to Keele, and near the barn, for those who have ever been over this way).
We’ve six projects ongoing: one on increasing the options for low income people cashing government cheques and one on the division of pensions on marital breakdown (both almost completed); a two to three year project on developing a framework on the law as it affects older adults and a similar one relating to persons with disabilities; and a project on vulnerable workers and the protections offered by provincial legislation. Our first Osgoode Hall Law School Scholar in Residence, Professor Janet Walker, has undertaken a project in association with the LCO, on the codification of judicial jurisdiction in Ontario (whether Ontario should enact a modified version of the Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act, among other aspects of the topic).
We recently had our first “major” event, a Family Law Reform Roundtable, with the objective of helping us select a project in the area of family law. We invited representatives of community legal clinics, community-based groups, the judiciary, the government, academics and practitioners to an all-day Roundtable. We’ve heard so much about the need for reform throughout this area of law that we decided we could benefit from a vehicle for identifying the most urgent problems. This experienced group wasn’t shy in naming what needs to be done. This was exactly the kind of liaison that we need to do: we learned a lot, made some great contacts, involved a wide range of diverse people in our process, spread word about us and provided a forum where people with different perspectives had an opportunity to hear from each other about something they care about passionately. Our next step is to develop an options paper that we’ll distribute more broadly for input before selecting our project. I’m considering making this consultation “paper” a wiki — if I tell enough people, I’ll have to do it!
If you want to learn more about the “new” Law Commission of Ontario, go to http://www.lco-cdo.org/: you can find out more about who we are, our projects, our strategic plan, including how we approach our work – and how to propose a project, if you’re interested.