We can expect more rapists, child molesters, drug dealers and murderers to be freed if something doesn’t happen soon in our court system.
There is a shortage of judges, and while that sounds like a distant problem for someone in government to solve, in practice it means criminals are freed without being brought to justice.
The Ontario Supreme Court is nearly 19 judges, according to the federal government’s website. Equally worrying is that out of a total of 278 judges in the penal system, 73 are redundant, meaning they are semi-retired and working on a part-time basis.
With 26% of all judges working part-time and the missing 19 judges, Ontario is in the worst shape of any province.
All of this leads to a backlog of cases that could and should be cleared if Justin Trudeau’s Liberals did their job of appointing judges. Their choice not to do so means people accused of serious crimes are off the hook.
On Wednesday the Toronto Sun told the story of a young girl in Toronto who described years of physical, mental and sexual abuse at the hands of her father. Charges were filed in early 2021 following an investigation by police and social workers.
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After going through preliminary hearings and scheduled court dates, which were canceled due to a lack of judges, the girl and her family face the possibility that the case will be dropped without a trial.
A 2016 Supreme Court ruling set strict guidelines to ensure the charter guarantees the right to a trial within a reasonable timeframe. In minor cases, court proceedings had to take place within 18 months, in more serious cases within 30 months.
The 30-month mark is now approaching the horrifying allegations described by Alexandra and her mother Lisa (not their real names) and there is still no trial date that meets the Supreme Court deadline. The problem isn’t with the Supreme Court, it’s with our government.
The court established this rule in 2016, but now we are in 2023 and cases are still falling through the cracks due to lack of resources. Yes, there are issues from a pandemic backlog and there are issues with lower-level court officials not wanting to return to in-person hearings post-pandemic, but at heart this isn’t about successive governments — most recently the Trudeau administration, taking criminal justice seriously.
“The New Democrats have expressed concerns to the government that their late appointment of judges is causing delays that risk very serious criminal cases being dismissed,” NDP MP Randall Garrison said.
Conservative justice critic Rob Moore said the Trudeau government’s failure to fill these vacancies meant there were more dangerous people on our streets.
“Victims and their families don’t get justice when dangerous criminals who have committed horrific crimes get off the hook because Trudeau doesn’t hire enough judges for our court system,” Moore said.
For its part, the Liberal government said in a statement that it had appointed 100 new judges. But that’s not helping to fill the gap in Ontario, where the number of judges on the court between vacancies and part-timers falls short of needs.
“(Justice) Minister (David) Lametti stands by the victims of sexual assault and works to ensure we have a justice system that supports and protects them. He is aware of the concerns about vacancies in the Ontario judiciary and is doing everything he can to fill them expeditiously,” spokeswoman Diana Ebadi said Wednesday.
Speed means speed and efficiency, but that’s not how jobs are filled, certainly not in Ontario. The Trudeau administration needs to do better on this front, or admit it’s not worried about sex offenders, drug dealers and murderers getting free before they stand trial.
And they need to be able to look young girls like Alexandra in the eye and explain why their case didn’t deserve the attention of the court and a judge.
https://torontosun.com/opinion/columnists/trudeaus-failure-to-appoint-judges-sees-criminals-go-free Trudeau’s failure to appoint judges could exonerate criminals