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Digital access can take fright out of courthouse visits: official

'The addition of technology and digitization will give people more access,' says official, noting program is being expanded into Orillia office
Barrie-area MPPs Doug Downey and Andrea Khanjin at Friday's Ontario Trillium Foundation event.

Digital access to justice court support program, and its funding, were recognized recently.

The John Howard Society of Simcoe and Muskoka celebrated the Ontario Trillium Fund grant of $127,900, which has helped 161 clients two-thirds of the way through the program’s tenure.

Tracy King, the society’s court support case manager and manager of justice services, said the funding’s impact cannot be overstated.

“A lot of our clients say going to the courthouse is scary,” she said. “They’re walking into court at 9 a.m. and could be there until 4 p.m.

“But the addition of technology and digitization will give people more access,” King added.

Initiated during the COVID-19 pandemic, the program was in response to the need to access digital court.

It now provides clients in Barrie and Orillia with support for such matters as accessing disclosure, case management, phone access, retaining legal aid, duty counsel, bench warrants, and pretrials. The program does not deal with bail, pleas or sentencing.

“(Clients) are connected with lawyers, they are connected with duty counsel,” said Barrie-Innisfil MPP Andrea Khanjin.

“The work you do is really important,” Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte MPP Doug Downey, who is also Ontario's Attorney General, told society officials.

“It seems like there is a ton of work that goes into each and every person (helped),” said Barrie Mayor Alex Nuttall.

The $127,900 resilient communities fund grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, in addition to funding the program, allowed for the expansion of this program into the Orillia office and surrounding areas.

The John Howard Society of Simcoe and Muskoka is accessed by primarily unhoused people or low-income folks with no fixed address. The services provided by the society allows them to access court support services without barriers, with help from society officials.

This program is offered in Barrie on Mondays and Wednesdays, and in Orillia on Tuesdays. 

The Ontario Trillium Foundation, an agency of the Ontario government, last year invested more than $110 million into 1,022 community projects and partnerships.

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Bob Bruton

About the Author: Bob Bruton

Bob Bruton is a full-time BarrieToday reporter who covers politics and city hall.
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