Modifications to Powers of Justices of the Peace

Jun 6, 2012 By Matthew Friedberg

I recently read the article in the National Post regarding proposed modifications to powers of Justices of the Peace (J.P.) in Ontario. http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/05/31/bill-would-force-ontario-justices-of-the-peace-to-meet-higher-standards-for-work/.  The following is a link to the proposed legislation. http://www.ontla.on.ca/bills/bills-files/40_Parliament/Session1/b097.pdf.

I must say I was pleasantly surprised with this bill. It is long overdue. I have often noted it is with shock that many members of the public learn that to be a JP in Ontario requires no law degree, no experience practicing law and no legal background. All this despite JPs play an integral role in our criminal justice system often determining the fate of a person’s liberty and privacy rights. JPs routinely preside at bail hearings determining if someone will receive bail and have the authority to sign search warrants allowing the police to enter homes impacting on someone's privacy rights at the most fundamental level. All the while, a JP may have little more experience with the justice system than the average layman.

Requiring law degrees and legal experience from JPs who will make legally substantive decisions is a good thing for everyone. This proposed legislation will foster transparency in the appointment process, competency in the decision making process and more accountability from the bench. This bill is something that should be strongly supported by everyone who cares about justice and fairness.

Matthew Friedberg