Ontario’s attorney general announced Thursday a series of measures he says will make the province’s justice system fairer and faster.
In hopes of speeding up the court process, the province will be appointing 13 new judges, 32 assistant Crown attorneys, 16 duty counsel and 26 court staff.
Criminal cases must be heard within a reasonable time frame — a right protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms — or charges can be stayed by a judge.
In a landmark Supreme Court ruling earlier this year, the time limit for the completion of a trial was defined as 18 months for cases in the Ontario Court of Justice and 30 months for cases in the Superior Court of Justice, excluding cases representing exceptional circumstances.
“Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of Canada sounded the alarm,” Attorney General Yasir Naqvi said at a press conference. “Across the country, including here in Ontario, the pace of criminal justice is too slow.”
WATCH: Attorney General Yasir Naqvi’s full remarks
The province is also taking steps to facilitate bail for those awaiting trial who have been deemed low-risk. The Bail Verification and Supervision Program will be extended to more weekend courts. The definition of who can participate in this program is also being expanded to “allow more vulnerable people to be served across the province.”
Duty counsel — courthouse legal aid lawyers — will be made available at six correctional facilities, and five communities will be a getting “bail beds” program, which will provide supervised housing to those who don’t represent a risk to the public.
The attorney general has also tapped three experts — former chief justice Brian Lennox, former deputy attorney general Murray Segal and deputy Crown attorney Lori Montague — to provide advice on “modernizing” bail policies.
The province has also turned its attention to Indigenous people, who are over-represented within the justice system, promising to implement a new “culturally responsive” program to support those going through the bail and remand process.