Lisa Gervais: Province drops ball on hiring JPs
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | March 23, 2017|
On one day a month, for as long as we can remember, there’s been a Minden court.
That’s where people charged with provincial offences come before a Justice of the Peace.
Examples of some of the things this court deals with are Highway Traffic Act charges, such as speeding or traffic violations; municipal bylaw charges relating to excessive noise, animal control, or garbage disposal; and charges laid under provincial legislation such as the Environmental Protection Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Dog Owners’ Liability Act or the Trespass to Property Act.
For those in the community who have gotten themselves in hot water, it is a place in the county where they can have their matters dealt with without leaving the area.
For Minden, court day can also be a boon to the local economy as people making appearances often spend a bit of money, whether it’s grabbing a bite to eat or doing some shopping.
So, a report tabled at County Council yesterday is worrying on many fronts.
Karen Dunn, who’s manager of court operations for the City of Kawartha Lakes, sent council a letter informing them that due to a lack of judicial resources, the Minden Provincial Offences Court is being transferred to Lindsay from July 1, 2017 to July 1, 2018.
In her backgrounder, Dunn lays the blame on the province, saying the shortage is due mainly to the fact that the Ministry of the Attorney General has not been replacing Justices of the Peace on a regular basis when they retire or are unable to work.
In Central East, which covers Barrie, Bracebridge, Cobourg, Lindsay, Newmarket, Orillia, Oshawa and Peterborough, they should have 48. But, they have 11 vacancies and three off on long-term disability.
So, the province has dropped the ball…again. One can only surmise it has been trying to save money by deferring hiring. Full-time presiding Justices of the Peace are paid $131,123 a year, complete with comprehensive pension and insured benefits package including vacation of 22 working days.
Dunn said the ministry is currently in the process of hiring more JPs and hoping to have new appointments assigned by the end of May. Once these appointments are made, it will take a year or more to fully train incumbents.
Just out of curiously, we jumped on the ministry website and there are no current advertisements for Justice of the Peace vacancies.
However, Dunn said the Regional Senior Justice of the Peace, Brian Norton, says that on July 1, 2018 there should be a full complement of trained JPs in the Central East Region.
We hope that things go back to normal then but are always fearful - that when the province removes a service it will never return.
In the meantime, what about people who need to go to court?
Having to travel to Lindsay will be a real hardship for many.
We’ve attended court docket days. It’s a bit of a cattle call atmosphere. Everybody shows up at 9.30 or 10 a.m. for their matter and sometimes wait hours for the call.
Not only here, but across the region, the lack of judicial resources is also causing court closures. Dunn said this month alone, there will be 80 court closures in our jurisdiction due to the shortage of JPs. It is expected to get worse.
Court closures mean matters get adjourned and an already slow judicial process slows to a crawl.
It means more trips to Lindsay for people before the courts.
The County of Haliburton isn’t happy. It wants the decision to be reversed and any additional costs to the municipality reimbursed.
We’re also not happy. What is the province doing? It is things like this that again fuel the argument we don’t need a provincial level of government at all.
Lisa Gervais is the editor for The Highlander.