April 3, 1998
The Honourable Anne McLellan
Minister of Justice and Attorney General for Canada
285 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H8
In the spring of 1997, the Attorney General for Ontario established the Criminal Justice Review to “develop recommendations on how to achieve a fair, yet simpler, more efficient and less costly criminal justice process in Ontario”. One of the issues being examined by that Committee is the proposed Criminal Code amendments which deal with intake procedure, enhanced use of technology, mutual disclosure of experts, further hybridization of offences and preliminary inquiry reform.
The concerns we expressed to you at our December 1, 1997 meeting regarding more hybridization of offences and the reduction in preliminary inquiries have become more pronounced over the ensuing time period. To date there has been no analysis of the impact of further hybridization on Ontario’s Provincial Division – already Canada’s busiest criminal trial court. With some jurisdictions battling daily to avoid ‘Askov II’ with the Criminal Code in its current form, increasing the number, length and complexity of trials in that Division may very well be a recipe for ‘Askov II’. Similarly, the push to reform the preliminary inquiry is based upon anecdotal accounts of the rare preliminary inquiry which goes off the rails and a view of disclosure, which is divorced from reality. There has been no critical analysis of the benefits and flaws in preliminary inquiries since the earlier hybridization.
In our view, it would be premature to introduce the proposed amendments in relation to hybridization and preliminary inquiry reform until the Criminal Justice Review has had an opportunity to report. The Committee, comprised of members of the judiciary, prosecutors, defence counsel and administrators is scheduled to report by the end of June. There are serious concerns that the amendments will create a justice system which is unfair and a Provincial Division which cannot accommodate the increased workload – an inefficient criminal justice process. We strongly urge you to await the report of the Criminal Justice Review before introducing the amendments in these areas.
I thank you for your consideration.
Yours very truly,
ALAN D. GOLD