Judicial Officials in Ontario – For Beginners

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Depending upon your legal matter, sometimes it is important to understand the kind of judicial officer you are dealing with. For instance, certain motions in civil courts can only be heard by a Judge and no other. This course explains the basic difference between a Judge, a Master and a Justice of Peace.

Relevant Links for further reading: http://www.ontariocourts.ca/ocj/general-public/what-do-judges-and-justices-of-the-peace-do http://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/judges/current/judges/

This lecture is taught by Amer Mushtaq, LL.B., M. Engineering , B.Sc. (Hons.), who is the Principal and Founder of the law firm, Formative LLP. Through his YouTube channel, YouCounsel,

Amer shares practical advice from his years of legal experience to help anyone access justice and achieve their goals. Subscribe today to learn more.

Amer also offers in-depth courses (by paid subscription) on various legal topics through http://www.youcounsel.ca/.


Show Notes:


Lecture Slides:

Machine Transcription:

Welcome everyone this is Amer Mushtaq from YouCounsel.

Today we will talk about judicial officers or judicial officials in Ontario. The context of this discussion is that you can understand what is the role of these judicial officers with respect to your civil matters or criminal matters in Ontario. We begin with the disclaimer that this course is not legal advice, so if you have any specific questions you must contact a lawyer or a paralegal.

Judicial officers are appointed pursuant to specific legislation. In Ontario either it is the Court of Justice Act or the Justices of the Peace Act or some other legislation. There is specific legislation that allows the appointment of these officers. Today we will talk about three common officials that you may deal with, with respect to your matters: (1) Judges; (2) Masters and (3) Justices of Peace.

Let’s talk about a Judge. (1) A Judge is obviously a provincially appointed person, usually somebody who is a lawyer, with 10 plus years of experience. He or she is a decision maker with respect to a number of trials that you may be dealing with. These are criminal trials, family law trials or other civil matters and the deciding person (the decision maker) is usually a Judge who will be making the decisions in these trials. The Judge has—in general terms—the most authority on any legal matter. He or she is always addressed as “Your Honor”. This is just to give you an idea that if you are dealing with a Federal Court Judge or a Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, then you address them as “Your Lord” or “My Lord” or “My Lady” or “Your Lordship” or “Your Ladyship” depending upon the grammatical sentence you’re making. Generally speaking in Ontario in civil matters you address the Judge’s decision as Your Honor and not as Mr., Ma’am or Sir.

(2) A Master is somewhat similar to a Judge but does not have as much authority as a Judge. They are also provincially nominated. And are mostly lawyers with 10 plus years experience. Masters usually (and they’re mostly in Ontario—in fact mostly in Toronto and then some in Ottawa. This is a category of decision makers which I believe are now being scaled back. The provincial government is appointing Judges more and more as opposed to Masters but Masters are still present and you may end up dealing with them on different matters. Masters deal a lot with motions or different kinds pre-trial, construction lien matters and what not. They don’t preside in trials but they deal with other issues. Generally, you address a Master as a Master and not Your Honor but sometimes because I don’t see Masters that often, I end up calling them Your Honor, which is fine but Master is addressed as Master.

(3) Justice of Peace is a category that you as a citizen may deal or come across most. To become a Justice of Peace you do not require any legal background. They may be lawyers (past lawyers) but may not. As long as you have some work experience either in paid capacity or as a volunteer and you have some education undergrad degree or a diploma of any kind that is sufficient qualification to become a Justice of Peace. Generally speaking these are individuals who have some participation in community, some sort of community service i.e., they have (some sort of connections) in the sense that they have provided service to community to get appointed as a Justice of Peace. Normally you will see Justices of Peace with respect to parking tickets, traffic tickets, provincial offenses, etc as those are the kind of issues that are mostly dealt with by Justices of Peace. You address a Justice of Peace as “Your Worship”. That’s the term to use Your Worship. That term is fading away. A lot of people just call the Justice of Peace, “Your Honor” as well. But properly speaking, the term to address a Justice of Peace is not sir or ma’am but Your Worship.

Why should you know the difference between a Judge, a Master and a Justice of Peace? Most of the time it’s not an issue. Once you are presented before a decision maker by default—whether your matter is going to trial or some other court process is happening—you are presented to somebody who is the decision maker, then you don’t need to worry about whether this is a Judge or a Master or Justice of Peace as long as you know that, that person is the decision maker. The only item that matters is that you know how to address that specific person. In some circumstances it is absolutely crucial for you to know the difference. For instance, if you have to bring a motion in the Superior Court of Justice in Toronto or in Ontario, the first thing you need to determine is whether you can bring the motion before a Judge or can it be brought before a Master? Can the Master give you the request that you are seeking through that motion? Because if you bring a motion that can be heard by a Master and you bring it before a Judge, the Judge may not be too happy about it. Primarily, because Judges have a very heavy workload of their own and if this matter could have been dealt with by a Master, they would prefer that you would have gone to a Master. Depending upon which Judge you come across they may grant you the order or they may just send you out and you will have to bring the motion before a Master. Conversely, if you bring a motion before a Master and the Master does not have any authority to grant the Order on the motion, then this simply means that the Master has no jurisdiction and so the Master cannot give you what you’re asking. The matter has to be brought before a Judge. It’s an important distinction in terms of bringing motions. A lot of times many counsel are confused about whether the particular motion can be brought before a Master or not. If you have retained counsel, then obviously the counsel will do the homework to figure out whether any motion can be brought on that specific issue before a Master or not but if you’re representing yourself then you want to make sure that you understand who do you bring the motion before. Then obviously as I said it’s important for you to know how to address the specific decision maker.

There are a variety of other decision makers that I haven’t touched upon which are appointed also in the province under different legislation. For example, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has decision makers that are called Vice-Chairs. These are really Judges for the Human Rights Tribunal but they have different powers, they have different roles than a normal Judge. It’s good to have some understanding of who the decision maker is so you can present your case properly.

In summary, you need to understand who the decision maker is and if the distinction is important to understand that. If you want to read more about Judges their appointments; Masters their appointments and Justices of Peace, I have provided a link which is from the Ontario Courts. You can check it out. Also if you want to know all of the Judges that are in Ontario—that have been appointed—all this information is available online and you can by all means check it out.

Hopefully this gives you some understanding of the decision makers that you may deal with in Toronto or in Ontario Courts. If you have any specific questions or require clarification on any of the specific decision makers by all means send us a comment or question and we’ll be happy to include that in one of our future lectures. Thank you for watching.

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