Court closure moving ahead despite petition
By Chad Ingram
Published Sept. 28, 2017
It seems a petition requesting the province reverse the decision to suspend provincial offences court proceedings at the Minden courthouse for a year has had little effect.
Earlier this year, local municipalities were informed of the move, which has suspended provincial offences proceedings from July 1, 2017 to July 1, 2018, with all of those proceedings to take place in Lindsay instead.
Local politicians expressed dismay at the decision, made by the regional senior justice of the peace in light of a shortage of justices of the peace in Ontario’s Central East Region.
“I am not amused in any way,” Minden Hills Reeve and Haliburton County Warden Brent Devolin said upon receiving the news in March. “This is a lot bigger problem than just moving the court [temporarily] to Lindsay.”
Devolin said if the community didn’t protest the decision, it was likely the province will make the move a permanent one.
“It’ll never come back.”
While there are supposed to be 48 justices of the peace for the region, there are currently about a dozen vacancies. Politicians criticized the province for not hiring enough JPs and expressed concern about the ability of some Haliburton County residents to travel to Lindsay for court dates. They said it was likely that OPP officers would have to transport residents to and from the county, driving up policing costs.
Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP Laurie Scott launched a petition against the closure in April, the petition reading, “the closure of the Provincial Offence court in Minden means; a dramatic reduction in access to justice for residents, hurts the local economy and, jeopardizes community safety by letting criminals get off scot-free.”
Scott’s office received a response to her petition from Ontario’s Attorney General Yasir Naqvi earlier this month.
“I understand the regional senior justice of the peace is temporarily moving all Minden provincial offence matters to the Lindsay provincial offences court effective July 1, 2017 until July 1, 2018,” the correspondence reads. “The scheduling of judicial resources and court sittings is at the discretion of the judiciary and it would not be appropriate for the ministry to comment further on these matters.
“The minister has asked the justices of the peace appointments advisory committee, which is an independent agency, to recruit 43 justices of the peace, including eight to sit in the Central East region. This recruitment is well underway.”
Scott is criticizing Naqvi’s response, saying he’s hiding behind the excuse of judicial independence, and failing to take responsibility for causing the backlog of justice of the peace appointments in the first place.
“Unfortunately, the Wynne government has refused to listen to the hundreds of constituents who signed my petition and failed to act to stop this closure,” Scott said in a release.
“This is a shameful response from the minister, showing that he doesn’t care about the realities of life in rural Ontario. Nevertheless, I will keep up the pressure on him to listen to my constituents and ensure that they have the access to justice that they deserve.”
Ontario and Superior court of justice matters continue to be heard in Minden.