A great video recently made the rounds in which a Canadian doctor handily defended the Canadian health care system when it was criticized by a partisan U.S. senator. While some in the U.S. may look northward to the Canadian health care system for inspiration, it is exactly the opposite when it comes to comparing the U.S. court system with Ontario’s.
In the U.S., court documents are easily accessible by PACER. PACER means “Public Access to Court Electronic Records”, giving access to over 500 million U.S. federal court documents, including a listing of parties involved in the litigation, a listing of court decisions, and copies of documents filed with the court.
That is light years ahead of Ontario’s court system. I can more easily find the latest development in a Hawaiian bankruptcy court using PACER compared to the time and expense involved with sending a law clerk to manually pull something from a court around the corner from my office.
What’s more, PACER allows for documents to be served and filed electronically. Not so in Ontario. Pages must be printed, books must be bound, documents must be physically served and filed. And after all of that has been done, books still can go missing. Justice Brown described this in a widely-reported decision two years ago, in which he explained that delays in tracking down filed physically-filed documents had no impact on him personally but had a real impact on costs to the litigants. Nothing has changed since then.
Ontario’s auditor criticized the Province’s “antiquated computer and information systems” 11 years ago. Other projects to modernize Ontario’s court system have failed. It is high time to modernize Ontario’s courts to facilitate easier and more efficient access to justice.