Are Recent Changes Improvements to Ontario's Justice System?
There has been criticism to Ontario’s criminal justice system in regards to its overall performance.
Recent reforms have attempted addressed some of the areas of concern, supposedly improving public safety, fairness, and access to justice.
According to a criminal justice report card released by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, Ontario has the second lowest violent crime rate in Canada, higher non-violent crime clearance rate than other provinces and relatively low rates of accused persons being unlawfully at large and failing to comply with court orders.
Additionally, Ontario has the second-highest criminal legal aid expenditures among the other provinces. This means that the amount of money spent on legal aid for those accused of crimes is nearly the highest in Canada. If you are low income and are accused of an offence, you may be more likely to be eligible for legal aid.
While Ontario may have comparably high allocation of legal aid funding, many still feel that the budget is not sufficient enough to adequately assist low income individuals before the court.
To be eligible for a legal aid certificate in Ontario
an individual must demonstrate that they have little or no income left after paying their basic necessities like food and housing.
People on social assistance almost always qualify for legal aid. An individual may be eligible for legal aid even if you have some money in the bank or even if you own a home.
However, to qualify for legal aid services an individual's annual gross family income must be:
Below $22,270 for a family of 1
Below $32,131 for a family of 2
Below $39,137 for a family of 3
Below $45,440 for a family of 4
Below $50,803 for a family of 5 or more
These cutoffs mean many people who are struggling financially are ineligible for legal aid funding in Ontario.
Furthermore, Ontario’s justice system has ongoing issues that are continuing to plague the province’s criminal justice system.
Ontario’s criminal justice system recent reforms do little to address two major areas of concern: the disproportionate number of Aboriginal people before the court in the criminal justice system and the high numbers of accused people held in custody awaiting trial.
The justice system has one of the highest levels of Aboriginal involvement compared to anywhere in Canada.
Ontario also has the second-highest number of accused persons detained while awaiting trial rather than out on bail. Exacerbating this issue is the abhorrent conditions of pre-trial custody facilities in Ontario.
Many residents of Ontario are critical of the Justice System, in particular, the various police forces, siting unapproachability and a lack of confidence in their fairness.
Although the government of Ontario has made changes to its criminal justice system, reforms are desperately needed to address ongoing issues that are continuing to plague the province’s criminal justice system.
If you are charged with an offence, it is important to be represented by an experienced criminal defence lawyer if you intend to successfully fight it.
Know your rights! If you are facing criminal offence charges contact Kostman and Pyzer, Barristers for your free consultation today!