PRE-ELECTION STATEMENT ON JUSTICE AND CORRECTIONS

Over the past four years we have been concerned about the following matters related to Justice and Corrections.  We want a truly just, transparent, and fair justice system in Ontario, that treats all people equally.

Persuade the Attorney General (Court Services, Family Law, Access to Justice) to: Restore Accessibility and Transparency to the Justice System.

During the pandemic, legal hearings have been closed to the public and inaccessible to many. Virtual Zoom meetings require all parties to be aware of the hearing time, prepared in advance and able to access computer (or phone) to attend.  The poor and vulnerable are not always able to do so.  They may also require representation by Duty Council.  Sometimes one lawyer is scheduled to be duty council for several simultaneous hearings.  To eliminate hearing backlog, some lawyers have been offered a financial incentive to obtain guilty pleas from clients, denying the right to a fair trial and negating the presumption of innocence. 

For evictions hearings, Fund the Landlord/Tenant Board to ensure sufficient staffing to analyze cases and present options.

The proposed new courthouse for Halton Region was cancelled, with the result that there is little or no physical court space in Milton, Oakville, and Burlington.

To increase accessibility to justice, restore and increase funding for Legal Aid (cut in 2019); Pause eviction hearings until pandemic is over and reactivate the plans to build a new courthouse.

Persuade the Solicitor General (Corrections, Policing, Public Safety) to:

  • Re-establish jail oversight committees.  These were discontinued on the grounds that several entities were doing this, duplicating the work.  Now no-one is doing it and conditions in jails are no longer monitored.
  • Eliminate over-representation of black and indigenous groups in jails.

A deliberate effort must be made to divert members of these groups from jail sentences.  It is important to reduce the societal causes of offences.

  • Rectify shortfall in funding for jail rehabilitation programs. Currently rehabilitation and training programs are unavailable in jails and no rehabilitation takes place, resulting in recidivism
  • Conduct a review of Conditions of the incarcerated during Covid, and the general lack of healthcare provision in Provincial prisons
  • Review Conditions of immigration detainees
  • Review the Provincial/Federal agreement regarding detention of immigrants, such that immigrants are not held inappropriately in Provincial jails. (The government of B.C. recently rescinded their arrangement with the federal government)
  • Replace Remand Without Bail while awaiting trial, so that jobs, family connections and social supports are not lost, putting prisoners at risk of further offences
  • Promote sensitivity to cultural experience when sentencing
  • Extend the use of Gladue reports to understand background contributing factors when sentencing indigenous offenders.  Similarly, consider the use of Morris reports to understand background contributing factors when sentencing black offenders.
  • Build trained mental health response teams to respond to emergency calls (wellness checks) where police intervention is not necessary.