New Sheriff in Town
There is a new sheriff in town – an organization just getting itself up and running called Tribunal Watch Ontario. It has emerged in response to the Ford government’s ferocious and devastating attack on Ontario’s system of tribunal justice. In the government’s first two years, this attack has focused principally on the 19 judicial tribunals clustered under Tribunals Ontario; however there is an expectation that the attacks may soon shift their focus to include other stand-alone judicial tribunals outside of that cluster, such as the OLRB and WSIAT.
The government appears to be deliberately destroying the quality, independence, capacity and credibility of judicial tribunals by seven strategic measures:
- Refusing to renew the appointments of a large proportion of experienced adjudicators for no justifiable reasons.
- Drastically cutting the tribunal’s adjudicator resources through failing to fill a large proportion of the vacancies created by the wholesale refusal of reappointments;
- Removing the tribunals’ experienced leadership;
- Applying the 10-year service limit policy automatically, without regard for the public interest;
- Deeming experienced adjudicators who have been refused reappointments, or who have been timed-out under the 10-year rule, to be ineligible for appointments to other tribunals, thus ridding the system of its professional adjudicators and effectively of the very idea of professional adjudicators;
- Appointing tribunal adjudicators to short terms and making it clear that their reappointments are not assured, notwithstanding good performance, and may in any event be offered only for terms of short, arbitrary length, thus eliminating adjudicators’ security of tenure and their sense of independence, and turning the adjudicator positions into precarious employment unattractive to qualified candidates.
- In the selection of new appointees, complying in only a pro-forma way, if at all, with the selection process requirements of the ATAGA Act.
Tribunal Watch Ontario is a growing group of academics, civic leaders, advocates and past tribunal members who have come together for the immediate purpose of bringing the present crisis in Ontario’s system of tribunal justice to the attention of the government and the public, and for the longer term purpose of forming a permanent, non-partisan organization devoted to monitoring developments in the tribunal sector of the justice system as they occur.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I am pleased to have been included in that group, as confirmed in its “Statement of Concern” – see the reference below.
The organization is in the first phase of its development and is currently led by an ad hoc Steering Committee comprised of this author, Doug Ewart, Alec Farquhar, Naomi Overend, Niki Carlan, and other experienced and prominent members who cannot be publicly identified at this time.
Tribunal Watch Ontario now has an embryonic web site which may be found at tribunalwatch.ca and on which visitors will currently find the organization’s initial call to action in the form of a Statement of Concern (5 pages with 8 pages of Appendices).
The Statement provides data on the huge reduction in the number adjudicators since 2018, highlights the current mysterious vacancy in the position of Executive Chair of Tribunals Ontario, and makes the particular point that the decimation of the judicial tribunals at this time leaves those tribunals uniquely unequipped to cope with the looming tsunami of rights disputes that may be expected to be triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tribunal Watch Ontario intends to continue to monitor the state of the tribunal sector of the justice system and to respond appropriately as new developments occur and new information surfaces. It will, however, need help. Accordingly, please let the organization know if you would like to be on its anonymous mailing list or interested in contributing to its work as things go along, or if you have information which might be pertinent.
In addition to the web site, it can be reached by email at email@example.com or directly through any member of the Steering Committee.