Ministry claims it’s recruiting more justices of the peace
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | April 6, 2017
Minden Hills CAO Lorrie Blanchard said the township will lose $230-a-day for every day the Minden Provincial Offences Act (POA) court is relocated to Lindsay, beginning July 1.
That’s $2,760 for the year if the one-day-a-month court resumes in Minden on July 1, 2018.
Blanchard was speaking at a Minden Hills council meeting March 30 at which Karen Dunn, manager of court operations for the City of Kawartha Lakes, basically repeated the delegation she made to County Council back on March 22.
Dunn reiterated that the Central East Region is 30 per cent short of its complement of justices of the peace (JP), which has led the ministry’s regional senior justice of the peace, Brian Norton, to relocate the POA Court to Lindsay for a year. There should be 48 JP’s but there are 12 vacancies and three on long-term disability.
“It’s pretty serious,” Dunn said, noting it had led to 80 cancelled court sittings in March alone.
She said Minden had been “targeted” for a court relocation. Minden POA Court sits the first Thursday of the month. But Dunn said rather than people showing up for court only to find it closed because of the JP shortage, the move to Lindsay for a year is a temporary solution.
She said she has been told that recruitment for the vacancies is closed with appointments in May or June, after which training will commence.
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of the Attorney General told The Highlander last week that the recruitment for 43 justices of the peace positions, including eight in Central East region, “is well underway, which is why applications are no longer being accepted.”
“Simply put, applications have already been received,” said Emilie Smith.
She said recruitment is conducted by the justices of the peace appointments advisory Committee, which is an independent organization. The committee advertises vacancies, reviews applications, conducts interviews and selects candidates to recommend to the Attorney General.
The spokeswoman added: “I also understand the regional senior justice of the peace is only temporarily moving all Minden Provincial Offense matters to the Lindsay Provincial Offences court effective July 1, 2017 until July 1, 2018.”
She said the scheduling of judicial resources and court sittings is at the discretion of the judiciary and “it would not be appropriate for the ministry to comment further on these matters.”
However, “Improving access to justice for all court users is a core focus of our government. The ministry is aware of the important issues facing individuals involved in the justice system and remains committed to ensuring that the administration of the courts is responsive to the needs and interests of the public.”
Reeve Brent Devolin repeated a lot of what he said at County Council, namely that the situation is unacceptable and speaks to the competence of the provincial government.
In addition to writing a letter to the Ministry of the Attorney General to ensure it maintains its complement of JPs in the future, Minden Hills Council, at the request of Councillor Pam Sayne, has also written the province about reimbursing the public for travel costs.
County of Haliburton CAO Mike Rutter, meanwhile, said he was unable to quantify costs “but I am sure the OPP will incur overtime and additional travelling costs for when officers are required to attend court to provide evidence.” (With files from Mark Arike).
LISA GERVAIS is the editor for The Highlander.