Appoint more judges, Ajax calls

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Published April 16, 2024 at 7:31 pm

Gavel court sentence

Ajax has asked the Federal and Ontario governments to hire more judges amid a major backlog of court cases across the province.

Councillor Sterling Lee put the motion to call for more judges before Ajax council in a meeting on April 15. He was seconded by Councillor Nancy Henry.

Lee’s motion cited the 2016 Supreme Court ruling in R. v. Jordan, which threw out the previous framework to determine if a defendant has been tried within a reasonable time frame.

The right to a timely trial is enshrined in Section 11 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In this case, the accused was Barrett Jordan, who was arrested in British Columbia on drug possession and trafficking charges in 2008.

However, it took 49.5 months or nearly four years for Jordan’s initial trial to conclude after numerous delays. He was finally convicted in February 2013. During the trial, Jordan filed a constitutional challenge under Section 11 but was twice defeated.

Eventually, Jordan reached the Supreme Court which found the previously established framework, in place since 1988, “contributed to a culture of delay and complacency.”

As such the Court established a new framework in which provincial trials must be concluded within 18 for provincial cases or 30 months for Superior Court cases. Delays caused by the defence are subtracted from the total. Additionally, Jordan’s charges were nullified.

This had an immediate effect on numerous ongoing court cases across Canada. Over the following year, more than 100 cases were dropped due to court delays, including murder and sexual assault cases.

While the decision prompted millions of dollars of provincial investment in the courts and the federal appointment of 80 new judges within the first year, a substantial backlog in cases remains.

As of April 1, 2024, there were 1,190 federally appointed judges sitting in Canada across all court levels, including 374 in Ontario. That total includes family court judges as well as criminals.

Per Lee, “The Federal Government is remiss in filling new court appointments.” He noted there are currently 78 judge vacancies. Of these, 65 are federal appointments.

“This is the town’s way of saying to both the federal government, who’s in charge of getting these judges, and the provincial government, who is responsible for selecting the Ontario component, that we need these judges as soon as possible,” Lee told the council.

He additionally cited Durham Police Chief Peter Moreira’s claim in the last Regional Council meeting that 10,000 traffic violation cases had been thrown out due to a lack of judges.

“The judiciary is an incredibly important part of this political process of governing,” he said, “and that’s why it’s an ask from the Town of Ajax for the feds and the province to get those judges ASAP.”

To Lee’s point, Mayor Shaun Collier said, “You spoke well to the challenges we are experiencing just here in Durham.”

“It’s incredibly frustrating as chair of the police board just to know the numbers of items where officers are doing their job and these charges end up being dismissed because there are not enough judges of justices of the peace to deal with them.”

He also mentioned his desire to see bail reform across Canada, noting there were 700 offences committed in Durham Region last year where the accused was already out on bail.

Lee’s motion passed unanimously.

 

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