The province is expanding access to legal services in Northeastern Ontario, with the goal of reducing the time it takes for cases to make their way through the system and improve the bail system.
“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,” the province said in a news release Friday.
In Sudbury, the province is hiring two new assistant Crown attorneys to help reduce the time it takes to bring a case to trial. The new staff could also be assigned to other court locations as needed to address delays.
The province is also enhancing the bail verification and supervision program delivered by the Elizabeth Fry Society in Sudbury by increasing eligibility for services, support for mental health services and weekend and statutory holidays court.
Across the Northeast, the province is also:
- Working with Indigenous communities, Indigenous friendship centres, Grand Council Treaty #3, and Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services Corporation to develop Indigenous bail verification and supervision programs in Cochrane, Timmins and Manitoulin Island 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.
- Working with the Elizabeth Fry Society to establish a brand new bail verification and supervision program in North Bay to increase supervision and support available to low-risk individuals before their trial.
- Expanding the existing bail verification and supervision program delivered by John Howard Society in Sault Ste. Marie to Elliot Lake, and enhancing existing services by increasing eligibility and providing support for mental health services.
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 one judge to Gore Bay.
The move is part of $25 million in new money the province is adding annually to the court budget to help reduce the time it takes to bring a case to trial and improve the bail system across the province.
It's partially spurred by the R v Jordan decision, which puts strict time limits on how long it takes for a criminal case to go to trial. Drunk drivers and other criminal cases have been dropped because of excessive delays.
Cory Roslyn, executive director of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Sudbury, is quoted as saying in the release that expanding the bail and supervision programs is a key step in reducing the number of people who are in jail despite not being convicted and not presenting a risk to the public.
“The expansion of the Sudbury program has created more opportunity for releases at weekend and statutory holidays court as well as much needed mental health and addiction supports,” Roslyn said. “The creation of the new program has recognized the need for the same services in North Bay. The Elizabeth Fry Society is committed to these expansions, working with many community organizations to better assist those released under our supervision."
"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,” Attorney General Yasir Naqvi is quoted as saying in the release. Our investments in Sudbury and the surrounding region will help make it possible for vulnerable, low-risk people to be safely released in the community with the supervision and support they need.”
"Adding these valuable resources will help make a more efficient criminal justice system, allowing Ontario courts to be faster and fairer, while still keeping our communities safe,” Sudbury MPP Glenn Thibeault said in the release. “Working closely with Indigenous communities helps to provide culturally appropriate bail services to address the needs and desires of the community."