Provincial offences court still out of order
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | June 13, 2018|
Although the Provincial Offences court was supposed to have come back to Minden July 1, The Highlander has learned that isn’t going to happen.
In fact, Haliburton County residents will have to continue to make the 140-kilometre return trip to Lindsay until early 2019 – and we’ve found out there’s no actual guarantee that the service will ever come back. Karen Dunn, manager of court operations for the City of Kawartha Lakes, first informed the County of Haliburton on March 7, 2017 that all Minden Provincial Offences Act (POA) matters would be transferred to Lindsay for a year, from July 1, 2017 to July 1, 2018.
She said she was acting on directions from Regional Senior Justice of the Peace (RSJP) Brian O. Norton. The move hasn’t affected Ontario or Superior Courts of Justice matters, which have remained in Minden. The POA deals with offences committed under provincial laws or municipal bylaws. The reason given for the closure was a serious shortage of Justices of the Peace (JPs) in the Central East Region. At the time, it was blamed on the Ministry of the Attorney General not replacing JPs in a timely manner. Dunn said the plan was to have new JPs hired by the end of May, 2017, followed by a year or more of training.
“Our [RSJP] has advised that on July 1, 2018, there should be a full complement of trained [JPs] in the Central East Region, and if we wish, we will be able to go back to the way we are operating today,” she told County Council at the time.
Approached this week by The Highlander, Dunn said the hiring process “has been a little slower than anticipated” with a full complement only as of last month.
“We are still in ‘training mode’ with many of the newlyhired [JPs] and anticipate that by January 2019 we will have a fully-trained complement,” she said. “So, ultimately in January 2019 we will be reviewing our judicial resource needs, along with the entire Central East judicial resource needs, and where to best place the available and fully-trained complement.”
Asked if that meant there was no guarantee Minden would get its POA court back, she said, “hopefully we can get it back; but, that is a call made by the Ministry after the Central East review in January.”
Minden Mayor Brent Devolin said he isn’t surprised by the latest development but is disappointed. “What they said … the hiring and training would be a 12-month interruption …so they’re only half done.”
However, he said he is hopeful that a change of government may ensure the service remains. He believes the Progressive Conservatives will be more “sensitive” to rural Ontarians.
“In a few weeks from now, they’re going to have some new political masters. And the plans for rural Ontario for court coverage may not be exactly the plans that there were.”
He added that the provincial and federal governments are lecturing about reducing the carbon footprint, so “under no way, shape or form can they have everybody from Haliburton County travel to Lindsay … it seems far more efficient to have a couple of people [JPs] come from Lindsay.” The Highlander contacted MPP Laurie Scott for
comment. A spokeswoman from her office said, “it was our understanding that it was to resume in Minden as of July 1, 2018. We are making inquiries with the ministry and the regional office right away on this issue.”
LISA GERVAIS is the editor for The Highlander.