Under the leadership of the OBA, FOLA joined with Legal Aid Ontario (LAO), The Advocates’ Society (TAS) in an effort to assist the Court in identifying which matters ought to be prioritized as remote operations continue to be expanded.
Here is a copy of our letter (dated June 23, 2020) to The Honourable Lise Maisonneuve Chief Justice of the OCJ outlining our recommendations.
OCJ Guide for self-represented accused persons who have criminal cases in the OCJ during the COVID-19 pandemic. Note: This is not a complete review of the criminal process and does not cover every circumstance that might arise in a given case.
OCJ Notice - Additional Court Locations Commencing Virtual Criminal Case Management Appearances on September 21, 2020 (Published September 17, 2020)
OCJ Update (September 11, 2020): The resumption of in-person criminal hearings at Gore Bay, Orillia, Stratford and Woodstock and of family hearings in Gore Bay, Stratford and Woodstock has been delayed and will not be taking place on September 14, 2020. Accompanying Scheduling Notice
OCJ Update (September 11, 2020): On September 10, 2020 the Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice made an order pursuant to s. 85 of the Provincial Offences Act extending most timelines under the Act until December 1, 2020.
Additionally, all Provincial Offences Act appeals to a judge of the Ontario Court of Justice scheduled from Monday, March 16, 2020 through to and including Friday, October 30, 2020 will be adjourned. See revised Notice here.
OCJ Notice – RE: Virtual Criminal Case Management Courts in specific locations will be starting in the beginning on September 8, 2020 (see Notice for locations).
OCJ Notice to the Profession and the Public: Re: the Scheduling of Criminal Trials and Preliminary Inquiries (August 12, 2020)
OCJ Practice Direction: RE: Waiver of Personal Attendance and Request for Adjournment / Remand by Accused Persons in Custody (August 12, 2020)
SCJ has replaced Provincial Practice Direction Regarding Criminal Proceedings with the Provincial Practice Direction / Amendment to the Criminal Proceedings Rules Regarding Criminal Proceedings.
OCJ criminal Notices and a Practice Direction (Aug 6):
Trials and Preliminary Hearings in the OCJ resume August 17, 2020 at College Park, Kenora, Timmins and Peterborough. They will resume August 24, 2020 in Burlington. For more information see Notice to the Profession and the Public re: Resumption of Criminal Trials and Preliminary Hearings in the Ontario Court of Justice at College Park, Kenora, Timmins, Peterborough and Burlington
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in order to limit the number of people who are required to attend court, the Court has issued a Practice Direction Authorizing Alternate Form of Appearance where an Enhanced Designation of Counsel has been Filed.
Accused persons who are represented by counsel and who have filed an Enhanced Designation of Counsel may have their matters adjourned, without the accused personally appearing, in accordance with the procedure set out in the Practice Direction.
A Notice providing details about the Virtual Criminal Case Management Courts Pilot launching in Kitchener and Ottawa, including information about how counsel and accused persons may connect to the court by videoconference or audioconference, is now available: see Notice to the Profession and the Public: Virtual Criminal Case Management Appearances in Kitchener and Ottawa Beginning August 10, 2020
Please find the new notices at: https://www.ontariocourts.ca/ocj/covid-19/
OCJ Notice re: criminal case management appearances, including the virtual case management court pilot (July 29)
OCJ NOTICE - Resumption of Criminal Trials and Preliminary Hearings as of July 6, 2020
OCJ NOTICE - Provincial Offences Act Matters (July 2, 2020)
OCJ NOTICE - Criminal Case Management Appearances and Setting Trial and Preliminary Inquiry Dates (Published July 2, 2020)
Criminal Case Adjournment Dates – Out-of-Custody Accused (updated July 2, 2020) * Note: The criminal case adjournment dates are subject to change. Please check this website regularly for any updates.
OCJ UPDATE: Notice to Counsel/Paralegals and the Public re: Provincial Offences Act Matters - May 19 2020
On May 9, 2020, the OCJ announced that, on Monday May 11, the Court will expand its operations to accommodate resolutions of criminal charges involving persons who are out of custody, where the Regional Senior Judge is satisfied that the necessary courthouse resources are in place.
In addition, as further described in the Notice, the Court is making judicial pre-trials mandatory for all criminal proceedings (including YCJA proceedings):
i) that were scheduled for a trial or preliminary inquiry between March 16, 2020 and July 3, 2020 that was, or will be, adjourned due to the COVID-19 pandemic; and
ii) that are scheduled for a trial or preliminary inquiry between July 6, 2020 and October 30, 2020.
READ THE NOTICE AND PROTOCOLS
** Detailed Procedure for Judiciary/Court Services/Counsel ** COVID-19: CONSENT VARIATION PROCEDURES FOR RELEASE ORDERS AND POLICE UNDERTAKINGS IN THE OCJ
OCTOBER 2020 UPDATE
As you may recall, in August 2020, the ministry communicated to stakeholders and municipalities that a Request for Services would be issued to retain an external vendor to review programs that support the delivery of court security and inmate transportation across the province, including the Court Security and Prisoner Transportation (CSPT) Transfer Payment (TP) Program.
Under the CSPT TP Program, the ministry allocates funding to municipalities to offset costs associated with both court security and prisoner transportation services to and from courts.
The ministry has now retained an independent consultant, Goss Gilroy Inc. (GGI), with expertise in public safety and security to conduct the review, following a competitive procurement process. In the upcoming weeks, Goss Gilroy Inc. will engage ministry stakeholders – including municipalities, police services and other justice sector partners – to help assess and identify improvements to the court security and inmate transportation process and the design of the CSPT TP Program.
The review will explore best practices and ways to improve the delivery of services, streamline processes and maximize effectiveness to ensure the continued safety of Ontarians. This continuous improvement effort is part of the government’s ongoing work to build a more responsive and resilient justice system.
The Ministry of the Solicitor General has worked with its vendor to enhance the current Offender Management Telephone System (OTMS) to allow inmates to access both collect calls and “debit” calling.
Whereas the old system only allowed for collect calling (which does not allow for calls to cell phones), under the enhanced system, debit calling is enabled and funded by the ministry. Debit calling allows for calls to cell phones.
The ministry will begin by providing inmates with $20 of calls and will monitor to determine whether this is adequate. Inmates will be able to use their funds as they see fit. This funding will allow for:
The phone system currently allows for organizations to register with the ministry to by-pass security features, such as three-way calling, call transfers and the use of the keypad. This exemption is provided for the purpose of facilitating the transfer of offender calls from a receptionist or automated telephone attendant system to the intended call recipient.
The Ministry of the Solicitor General has prepared the attached information to outline the different ways that inmates can access a Temporary Absence Permit (TAP), including the proactive early release reviews that the ministry has initiated. Recall that LAO has recently introduced as a COVID 19 response a modest increase in certificate coverage to allow lawyers to seek early release remedies at both federal and provincial institutions.
**UPDATE REGARDING C-75**
The Law Society Benchers, at the September 2019 Convocation, passed a motion that to preserve (as closely as possible) the range of services currently provided by regulated agents, in response to the enactment of Bill C-75:
a) with respect to paralegal scope of activities, the following two-stage approach:
i. amending By-Law 4, in principle, to establish a scope for criminal matters
comprised of the following:
1) all offences that were punishable by a maximum penalty of six months’ imprisonment when proceeding by summary conviction at the time that Bill C-75 was enacted; and
2) four offences that had been within agent scope since the onset of regulation but were amended by Bill C-46, and as a result of which were no longer within scope as of December 17, 2018: specifically, sections 320.13(1), 320.16(1), 320.17, 320.18(1) of the Criminal Code; and
ii. continue to review and develop the scope of activities for paralegals in criminal law matters, taking into account education and training standards and competency development in this field before Bill C-75 comes into force.
These were the recommendations as laid out in the Paralegal Standing Committee Report for September 11, 2019 Convocation
On September 19, 2019, Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, came into force. The resulting amendments to the Criminal Code have altered the landscape for legal advocates in the area of criminal law. Among other changes, the default maximum penalty for summary conviction offences has been raised from six months’ imprisonment to two years less a day. An overview of Bill C-75 can be found here.
FOLA's Concerns with C-75
Nonwithstanding some improvements, FOLA shared the concerns of the Criminal Bar Association and focused our submission on three key areas:
1. Restricting Preliminary Inquiries;
2. Eliminating jury peremptory challenges; and
3. Allowing routine evidence to be admitted by affidavit
FOLA believes that access to justice in the criminal sphere includes access to both procedural fairness and a strong presumption of innocence. While work needs to be done to modernize the system and allow for alternative methods of discovering witnesses and minimizing the adversarial process in certain types of cases, engagement of the practicing bar will be key in ensuring the greatest gains are made in reforming the system.
Our submission can be found here.