Ontario Making Criminal Justice System Faster and Fairer in Northwestern Ontario
Province Expanding Bail Programs and Hiring More Prosecutors
Ontario is moving forward with its plan to make the criminal justice system faster and fairer by implementing programs to help reduce time-to-trial and improve the bail system in northwestern Ontario.
The plan will enhance public safety by making it possible to resolve criminal cases faster and by making more supports and supervision available to vulnerable, low-risk individuals who come in contact with the law.
In northwestern Ontario, the province is:
- Hiring two new assistant Crown attorneys in Kenora to help reduce time-to-trial. These new resources may be assigned to assist other court locations as needed to address delays.
- Assigning one new duty counsel bail coordinator to work in the Kenora courthouse and Kenora Correctional Facility to help expedite the bail process and ensure meaningful decisions are made.
- Assigning one new dedicated bail vettor Crown attorney to the Kenora courthouse to facilitate faster bail decisions and early resolutions.
- Working with Indigenous Friendship Centres, Grand Council Treaty #3, and Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services Corporation to develop an Indigenous Bail Verification and Supervision Program in Kenora, Dryden, and Sioux Lookout and to develop bail liaison positions in First Nation communities. This work will allow people to receive culturally relevant services in their own communities, delivered by Indigenous service providers.
- Enhancing the existing Bail Verification and Supervision Program in Thunder Bay by increasing eligibility for services, support for mental health services and Weekend and Statutory Holidays court.
- Providing safe, supportive and supervised housing for vulnerable accused people who require enhanced supervision in the community, with 20 bail beds in Thunder Bay.
In addition, of the 13 new judges announced in December 2016, Chief Justice Lise Maisonneuve of the Ontario Court of Justice has indicated that she will assign two judges to northwestern Ontario, in Kenora and Thunder Bay.
By conducting a needs assessment, Ontario will also be exploring the potential development of a community justice centre model in Kenora. These centres are designed to bring justice services, legal support and health and community services together under one roof, and take an integrated approach to assessing and managing low-risk, vulnerable offenders. A community justice centre could help to close service gaps for Indigenous offenders through the provision of culturally relevant community-based services and support that are grounded in restorative principles of justice.
Improving Ontario's criminal justice system is part of our plan to keep communities safe and help people in their everyday lives.
- The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms requires that criminal trials take place within a reasonable amount of time. In cases where this time has been exceeded, the judge may choose to “stay” the charges and the case would not proceed to trial.
- The decision to grant or deny bail is complex and based on the specifics of each individual case. When considering whether to recommend bail, the key factors considered by the Crown are public safety (especially for victims), attendance in court, the rights of the accused, and public confidence in the administration of justice.
- In some cases where vulnerable individuals are charged with minor offences, community-based solutions can be an effective alternative to the criminal justice system. When individuals are connected with appropriate resources and supports, they are more likely to achieve stability in the community, and less likely to commit further criminal offences.
“Ontario’s criminal justice system must work to protect the interests of all people — victims, the public and the accused — while keeping our communities safe. We are working to implement strategies that aim to address how the issues of poverty, homelessness, mental illness and addictions intersect with the criminal justice system. Our investments in community-based agencies in Northern Ontario will help make it possible for vulnerable, low-risk individuals to be safely supervised in the community with access to the supports they need.”
“Over many years the over-representation of the Indigenous peoples of Ontario and Canada in the justice system has been alarming. We are happy to see that Ontario has recognized the need for more supports and programs to reduce the issue. We are also encouraged by the announcement of dealing with the poverty, homelessness and mental health issues including alcohol and drug addictions. The leadership of Treaty Three Territory welcomes the initiatives and are willing to work in partnership to address these issues.”
Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh
“These investments will help support people in Kenora and across Northern Ontario as they navigate the criminal justice system. The new Indigenous Bail Verification and Supervision Program lets us help Indigenous people to stay in their communities and out of jail while they wait for trial. This in itself will be extremely important to those who are able to utilize this program as they can remain at home and be close to their family. We are proud to be providing this service – it’s an important step towards a fairer justice system.”