Ontario Gov’t “Making Criminal Justice System Faster & 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.

QUICK FACTS

  • 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.

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