Ontario family law challenges not unique
The LCO’s new research lawyer is keeping his eye on the world as he works to advance law reform and improve access to justice for Ontario families. A former strategy analyst and policy officer with the Dutch Council for Refugees, Stefan Kok believes many of the challenges facing the province in the area of family justice are shared by other jurisdictions in North America and overseas. As the new lead for the LCO’s family law reform project, he plans to draw on his experiences with refugee protection.
“The big picture issues are in some ways similar. No one asks to become a refugee or to have their family relationship go wrong. These situations both involve highly complex and emotionally charged issues that demand creative solutions.”
In September, the Commission released the results of consultations highlighting the experiences of individuals and workers, including social workers, lawyers, judges and counsellors. Using public feedback and findings from two commissioned research studies, Kok is now preparing an interim report that will address how the family justice system might be improved.
“We’re focused on points of entry into the family law system — community legal centres, the courts, the Internet and other places where people go with questions,” he says. “This report will explore how we might provide better information and practical pathways to solutions.”
Kok is also exploring how Ontario might learn from other jurisdictions. “Most jurisdictions go through a major revision of their family justice system every 10 or 15 years. Our challenge is to identify what works and then incorporate it in a way that makes sense for us.”
The LCO’s family law interim report will be released for feedback this summer, with final recommendations expected in 2012.