Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of OPSEU, sent the following letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne regarding Section 35 (public prosecutions) of Bill 177, the Stronger, Fairer Ontario Act (Budget Measures), 2017.
November 27, 2017
Hon. Kathleen Wynne
Premier of Ontario
Room 281, Main Legislative Building, Queen’s Park
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A1
Re: Bill 177, Schedule 35: Provincial Prosecutions
Dear Premier Wynne:
I am writing to you today about an issue of urgent concern to Provincial Prosecutors who work for the Ministry of the Attorney General.
These OPSEU members prosecute the most serious non-criminal provincial offences (known as Part III offences), including:
- stunt driving, distracted driving, careless driving, careless driving causing death;
- failing to remain at the scene of an accident (hit and run);
- Christopher’s Law (Sex Offenders Registry violations);
- driving without insurance and driving while under suspension;
- breach of probation orders; and
- Serious motor vehicle collisions including tractor trailer rollovers which involve serious injuries, multiple casualties and highway closures.
Despite being non-criminal offences, these offences often involve fatalities, and penalties can include jail time. Our members prosecute any provincial offences that are serious enough that the defendant is summoned to court rather than simply receiving a ticket and paying a set fine out of court.
I am deeply concerned that your government has introduced legislation [Bill 177, the Stronger, Fairer Ontario Act (Budget Measures), 2017] allowing the Ministry of the Attorney General to download the prosecution of these serious offences to municipalities, where they will be prosecuted along with parking tickets and other minor infractions (Schedule 35 of the bill). I would strongly encourage you not to do so. There are good reasons why these prosecutions need to be directly carried out by the Ministry of the Attorney General.
Municipalities tend to treat parking tickets (Part II offences) and minor infractions (Part I offences) as revenue-generating tools. The main goal for municipalities is to dispose of these offences quickly while collecting as much revenue in penalties as possible from them.
Part III offences are different. Like criminal offences, these more serious provincial offences are matters of justice and public safety, not revenue generation. Just as the Ministry of the Attorney General prosecutes criminal offences, it should continue to be directly responsible for prosecuting Part III offences. Offences like sex offender registry violations and careless driving causing death must continue to be treated as the public safety issues they are, not lumped in with parking tickets.
This is also an issue of accountability. We entrust public safety and the fair administration of justice in Ontario to the Attorney General. People who prosecute Part III offences with very serious penalties up to and including imprisonment should be employees of, and directly accountable to, the Ministry of the Attorney General.
Municipalities are incorporated bodies who are simply accountable to their local leaders. They have fiscal constraints that could interfere with the administration of justice for Part III offences which may not generate enough revenue in penalties to cover the prosecution costs, especially in smaller municipalities. The Ministry of the Attorney General should not be downloading its financial responsibilities and its accountability for public safety to municipalities.
The public needs to have confidence that their safety is the primary consideration in the prosecution of serious Part III offences, as opposed to revenue generation or local fiscal constraints. Defendants who face serious penalties up to and including imprisonment also need to know that their prosecutor is directly accountable to the Attorney General for administering justice fairly.
There is still time to reverse course. I sincerely hope you will allow our Provincial Prosecutors to continue to protect the public by prosecuting Part III offences fairly and accountably through the Ministry of the Attorney General.
I would be happy to discuss this matter with you. I look forward to your response.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
c: Hon. Yasir Naqvi, Attorney General
Patrick Brown, Leader of the Opposition
Andrea Horwath, NDP Leader
Randy Hillier, MPP; Critic, Attorney General
Taras Natyshak, MPP; Critic, Community Safety and Correctional Services
Tim Elphick, Ministry of the Attorney General MERC Co-Chair, OPSEU
Jennifer Higgins, Assistant to the President, OPSEU