Progress on Ontario's Plan for Faster, Fairer Criminal Justice
Ontario is improving the criminal justice system by speeding up the resolution of criminal cases and helping ensure the bail system is faster and fairer.
Over the last year, the province has been rolling out new courtroom resources to focus on early case resolution, and increase capacity in the system. Ontario has also implemented innovative new programs to ensure low-risk vulnerable people have safe options for release in appropriate cases, while balancing the need to protect the safety of the public.
Faster Resolution of Criminal Cases
To ensure faster justice for the accused, victims and their families, the province:
- Appointed 10 more judges to the Ontario Court of Justice and the recruitment process is underway for three more
- Added 32 additional assistant Crown attorneys
More Effective Bail Decision-Making
Ontario is making the bail process faster and ensuring meaningful bail decisions are made while protecting public safety and victims of crime by: :
- Hiring 10 new dedicated bail vettor Crowns to facilitate faster bail decisions and, in appropriate cases, earlier resolutions
- Funding Legal Aid Ontario to hire 10 experienced duty counsel bail coordinators to work in the same high-volume bail court locations as the bail vettor Crowns.
Embedded Crown Counsel Project
The province has launched a program embedding Crown attorneys in the Toronto Police Service 51 Division and Ottawa Police Service where they provide real-time advice and support on bail decisions to police upon request. The embedded Crowns also work with police and community-based health and social service agencies on meaningful alternatives to criminal charges for vulnerable, low-risk accused who can be diverted out of the criminal justice system.
Early Access to Duty Counsel in Correctional Facilities
Ontario has funded Legal Aid Ontario to hire six new duty counsel to work on-site at six detention centres across the province to assist in expediting bail decisions by:
- Providing legal advice
- Facilitating quicker applications for legal aid certificates
- Preparing accused people for their bail hearings.
The province has already launched this program at five locations including: Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre, Vanier Centre for Women, Kenora Jail, Hamilton Wentworth Detention Centre, and the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre. The province continues the work to implement in one remaining location.
Expanded and Enhanced Bail Supervision
The province has expanded the Bail Verification and Supervision Program provincewide and rolled it out at seven additional weekend and holiday courts. Eligibility has been expanded to allow more vulnerable people to be served across the province.
In addition to the expanded access, the program now has additional supports for clients suffering from mental illness and struggling with poverty, homelessness and addictions. Specialized Bail Verification and Supervision Program staff provide these clients with improved access to housing, medical services, treatment, and supervision so they can be safely released in the community.
Bail Bed Program
Ontario has launched a new Bail Bed program to fund 70 beds in five locations across the province including: Barrie, Kitchener, Ottawa, Thunder Bay, and Toronto. This program provides safe, supportive and supervised housing for vulnerable accused persons who require enhanced supervision in the community.
Bail and Remand Program for Indigenous Peoples
As part of Ontario's commitment towards reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, the province has launched a new Indigenous bail and remand program. This will provide more services for Indigenous peoples by incorporating distinct Indigenous policies, training and Indigenous staff positions, so that they can remain in their communities while awaiting trial.
New Indigenous Bail Verification and Supervision Programs are being developed in Kenora, Pikangikum First Nation, Sioux Lookout, Dryden, Timmins, Cochrane, Manitoulin Island (United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising), Wikwemikong First Nation and Six Nations of the Grand River.
Enhanced supports for Indigenous clients have also been developed in partnership between existing Bail Verification and Supervision Programs and with Indigenous organizations in Niagara Regions, Barrie, London, Ottawa, and Toronto. In addition, the province is working with Grand Council Treaty #3, Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services Corporation and other First Nations to develop options to allow Indigenous people to report to Bail Verification and Supervision Programs within their own communities. The province is continuing to engage with Indigenous communities to identify additional potential locations.
Increased Openness and Transparency in the Criminal Justice System
To improve public reporting on criminal justice matters, the province has collaborated with the Ontario Court of Justice to create "dashboards," which are statistical reports with information on the progress of criminal cases to enhance accountability by improve public reporting on criminal justice matters.
Dashboards are available on the Ontario Court of Justice's website, and updated quarterly.