WALKERTON – As of Oct. 13, the day after Thanksgiving, Ontario’s 54 Land Registry Offices will close. The last day of counter service will be Friday, Oct. 9.
The announcement was made earlier this summer.
The shift to conducting business electronically has been happening for some time, as it becomes increasingly easy to conduct business without visiting the nearest Land Registry Office.
During a recent meeting of Brockton council, Coun. Dean Leifso, by profession a lawyer (Leifso and Leifso Professional Corporation Barristers and Solicitors in Hanover) who frequently uses the services of the LRO in Walkerton, commented that the once-important legal hub of the jail, courthouse and LRO in that community is down to only the court.
“It (LRO closure) will impact service,” Leifso told council. “It will be a problem for developers and … real estate lawyers.” He said he plans to put forward a motion at the next meeting asking the province to reconsider.
Leifso said his concern is that some documents are still on paper. Instead of a quick visit to the LRO, the paper document would have to be mailed in. “I’m not sure how we’re supposed to get it back,” he said. “It means no more same-day (real estate) closings.”
He noted that because the announcement was made during the summer, with COVID-19, little attention was paid to it. He further noted very few details accompanied the announcement.
Leifso wonders how people are going to get answers to questions, noting that while the electronic system works well most of the time, the times it doesn’t can create real problems – and not just for lawyers. There are others who use the LROs including people conducting genealogical research, journalists, builders, surveyors and historians.
Andrew Loucks (Loucks and Loucks Law and Legal Services in Chesley) is president of the Barr Association in Bruce County.
In his opinion, closing the LROs will mean four things for lawyers and the public.
The first is the loss of a “huge resource” in the form of local staff who have proved invaluable in answering questions and providing advice or clarity. They’re a key resource he, as a younger lawyer, has found tremendously useful. Loucks said he doesn’t know what’s going to happen now; questions will probably be forwarded to a major centre and there’ll be delays in getting answers.
Second, he noted some properties have not been converted from paper to electronic format. There will be implementation issues. “I expect delays,” he said, adding there may be an increase in cost.
Third is the probable loss of some original planning documents and maps. “Some are quite large,” he said, meaning they won’t be easily accessed for printing on a standard-sized piece of paper.
Fourth, the public in general was able to visit the LRO in person to do genealogical or other research. Now they won’t be able to without a computer.
For him, the most important factor is the people. “The staff at the LRO in Walkerton were really good, excellent, professional people.
Pauline Kerr is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with the Walkerton Herald-Times. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.