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Class Actions and Last Stages of Life projects include several LCO firsts

Two LCO projects in the final stages of completion — the Class Actions and Last Stages of Life projects — are heralding several new, non-traditional approaches to law reform research.


Heeding the call for evidence-based decision-making

In 2017, the LCO recruited Jasminka Kalajdzic of the University of Windsor and Catherine Piché of the Université de Montréal to evaluate Ontario’s experience with the 1993 Class Proceedings Act. The first independent, evidence-based review of class proceedings in the province in more than 25 years, the project represents the first time the LCO has involved external academics as principal researchers.

After consulting widely to identify the most pressing issues for research, the LCO released a consultation paper in March 2018. The paper generated significant interest, including responses from lawyers, judges, academics, government officials, NGO representatives, even class action plaintiffs. To date, the LCO has met with more than 300 class actions stakeholders.

The project also involved another first: a sophisticated empirical analysis of class actions in Ontario and the development of a comprehensive class action database for Ontario that includes information on everything from the subject matter of the class action to the outcome.

“Representatives of the justice system have long felt there’s a need for empirical data to drive decision-making, but it’s very difficult to do,” explains Nye Thomas, LCO’s executive director. “It involves hours and hours of legwork, reviewing court databases and online files, gathering information from firms and then checking and cross-checking every statistic.”

The LCO was awarded a $100,000 grant from the federal Department of Justice to complete the database project, which is now helping to inform the class action final report, due for release in 2019.


The most robust consultation in the LCO’s history

When it comes to issues regarding end-of-life-care, LCO counsel Ryan Fritsch knows just about everyone in Ontario has a vested interest. Still, he was surprised by the nearly overwhelming response to the LCO’s Last Stages of Life discussion paper, released in 2017.

“We hosted 69 consultations sessions involving 705 people from 34 communities across the province, making this the most robust consultation every undertaken by the LCO,” he says. This included 10 specialty roundtables with the HIV/AIDS community, experts in palliative sedation, members of the Ontario Palliative Care Network, bioethicists, faith and spiritual leaders, the palliative care team at The Hospital for Sick Children, and the families and caregivers of palliative patients.

The project also included the LCO’s first electronic survey in which 220 Ontarians weighed in using an application on their iPhone or iPad.

Fritsch and the project’s advisory committee are now analysing the data, including more than 1,000 pages of feedback and personal stories from the consultations and survey. “We’re recording every issue, experience and potential recommendation on a massive spreadsheet that will inform our recommendations,” Fritsch says. Among the early themes are the need for improved dispute resolution and better supports for caregivers.

The draft law reform recommendations are expected in 2019.


Indigenous Engagement Project for Last Stages of Life

The LCO is also developing a distinct process to engage Inuit, Métis and First Nation members in discussions about the last stages of life. The LCO has hired a consultant, Cassandra Baars, an Indigenous lawyer who will oversee the engagement process beginning in November 2018. The project will result in its own set of recommendations related to the end-of-life care of Indigenous Ontarians.