Ontario: “You are on the frontlines of justice”

Statement by Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey on Duty Counsel Day

A big thank you to Legal Aid Ontario for inviting me to take part in the celebrations for Canada’s Inaugural Duty Counsel Day.

I want to begin by recognizing and thanking the many members of the justice system who work tirelessly to provide duty counsel services for their fellow Ontarians. Our government appreciates and commends you on the important work you do.

Justice and human rights are aspects of democratic society that we as Ontarians and Canadians cherish the most. Our commitment to fairness, human rights and access to justice have established Ontario as a leader, ensuring that each and every person is equal before the law.

That has been especially evident as our province, our justice sector, and the world has faced the challenges of COVID-19 head-on. While some sectors were shuttered, we knew that closing the justice system was never an option and we needed to ensure justice remained accessible for everyone in our province. That required unprecedented innovation and collaboration across the system.

At the centre of that work, were lawyers acting as duty counsel. You are on the front lines of justice, and your vital work and dedication has continued to move the system forward. You have been a beacon of leadership, providing around the clock legal support and services, and doing your best to improve the lives of thousands of people trying to navigate the court system, often for the first time.

Duty counsel are part of the reason the Ontario government can continue to keep its commitment to ensuring access to justice or Ontarians. Thank you for all of the work that you do to build a more accessible responsive and resilient justice system. I wish you all the best for today’s forthcoming celebrations.

Thank you. Merci. Miligwetch.