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'Attempted murder is not a priority': Victims of tossed out cases speak out amid lower Ont. justice funding


Cait Alexander does not consider herself a victim of domestic violence, but rather, a victim of the Canadian justice system.

The criminal case for her ex-boyfriend, accused of trying to kill her in 2021, was rescheduled twice before it was ultimately dropped. She was granted a restraining order and sent on her way.

“I was told my attempted murder is not a priority,” Alexander told reporters at a press conference at Queen’s Park Thursday. “This means an extremely violent abuser is freed without a single consequence.”

Standing at a podium, Alexander said she is not an anomaly, and that she has spoken to “countless women” who have suffered gender-based violence and had a case thrown out or resolved with a peace bond.

“These governments are not tough on crime,” she said. “The system needs immediate reform. Canadians are not safe when the laws only impact the victim.”

Advocates argue that staffing shortages and a lack of funding for the Ontario justice sector is resulting in cases involving violent crimes being tossed out.

For victims, there is little recourse once the time lapses on a criminal case.

Emily Ager’s sexual assault case was tossed out in November 2023, after having already testified in court.

“I was raped 789 days ago,” Ager said Thursday.

“The Jordan decision set a precedent that allowed for a maximum of 540 days for this rapist to have his trial heard and ruled upon. It has now been 147 days since the charges were stayed due to his right to a speedy trial.”

The Jordan ceiling is established under the Criminal Code of Canada that ensures anyone charged with an offence has the right to a trial within a reasonable time frame.

That time frame is set to 18 months for a provincial trial.

While advocates don’t contest the fact that cases should be heard in a timely matter, so that those accused of crimes aren’t sitting in jail unnecessarily, they do argue there should be enough resources to complete trials within that ceiling for all involved, including victims and witnesses.

“The men who committed these horrific crimes now walk free,” Ager said. “Both Cait and I were given life sentences.”

New Democratic Party MPP and critic for the Attorney General, Kristyn Wong-Tam, said the backlog in Ontario’s justice system is “staggering” and that she was disappointed no new funding has been earmarked for the justice sector in the 2024 budget.

“Tough on crime rhetoric from the government means absolutely nothing if the courts are understaffed and cases are tossed out,” they said.

“Right now in Ontario, courtrooms empty while lives hang in limbo, staff are overwhelmed and justice is again denied. The premier is profoundly harming our justice system.”

Without the proper staffing existing courtrooms “are dark,” Wong Tam said, and the cases meant to be heard within them are delayed.

For example, Toronto’s newest Ontario Court of Justice facility has seen multiple cases thrown out due to staffing issues. The facility took over proceedings from six others in Toronto, North York and Scarborough. The union representing public court employees warned staff are being overworked and underpaid.

Attorney General Doug Downey said he doesn’t “have the luxury” of addressing individual cases, but insists the government is doing “everything we can.”

“We have hired over 340 individuals in the court system, crown prosecutors, victim witness assistants, court employees, court staff,” he said during question period at Queen’s Park on Thursday.

“It is incredible the amount of resources this government is putting into the system to deal with the lack of progress that happened under the liberals previous to us.”

Funding for the justice sector is set to decrease from $6.1 billion to 5.9 billion in 2024, according to the recently-released Ontario budget.

In the next few years, that number is projected to decrease further to about $5.6 billion.

The province has not indicated they would be infusing more cash into the justice sector, saying instead that they are committing $13.5 million over three years to “enhance initiatives that support women, children, youth and others who are at increased risk of violence or exploitation.” Top Stories

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