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Ontario to spend additional $29M to alleviate court backlogs


The province will spend an additional $29 million to appoint new judges and fill nearly 200 additional positions within Ontario's court system in an effort to alleviate an ongoing backlog of criminal cases.

The funding will be used to appoint at least 25 new judges to the Ontario Court of Justice (OCJ), along with hiring 190 more Crown prosecutors, and victim support and court staff, the ministry said in a release issued Thursday.

“The Ontario Court of Justice applauds this commitment to providing additional judges," OCJ Chief Justice Sharon Nicklas said in the release. "This infusion will be critical in helping the court achieve its vision for a fair, accessible and innovative system that delivers impartial and timely justice, ensuring that all participants are treated with dignity and can take part meaningfully."

Staffing shortages have plagued the provincial court system since the pandemic and delayed a growing number of criminal cases. In some instances, those delays have stretched so long that the cases were thrown out altogether. In Ontario, charges against an accused individual can be stayed, or thrown out, if they are not tried within 18 months of being charged.

There has been no exception to the delays at Toronto’s newest courthouse, an amalgamation of six former OCJ facilities scattered across the GTA. The ministry has struggled to fully staff the courthouse since it opened last winter. In one of the most recent instances, a case involving the alleged sexual assault of a minor was thrown out due to a “staggering” number of courtroom closures fuelled by a lack of staff.

In March, NDP MPP and justice critic Kristyn Wong-Tam called the backlog “staggering” and said she was disappointed in a lack of new funding outlined 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,” Wong-Tam said at the time.

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

Without the proper staffing, the MPP said courtrooms remain “dark” and the cases meant to be heard within them will continue to see delays.

The Ministry says the funding announced Thursday is in addition to $72 million earmarked as part of the province’s Criminal Case Backlog Reduction Strategy in 2021. Top Stories

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