OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas wrote to Attorney General Caroline Mulroney Friday, asking her to reverse the decision of the previous government to download the prosecution of the most serious provincial offences to municipalities. Provincial prosecutors are OPSEU members who protect the public by prosecuting these offences fairly and accountably through the Ministry of the Attorney General.
Letter from OPSEU President to Attorney General
July 20, 2018
The Honourable Caroline Mulroney
720 Bay Street, 11th Floor
Toronto, Ontario M7A 2S9
Re: Bill 177, Schedule 35: Provincial Prosecutors
I am writing about an issue of urgent concern related 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, they often involve fatalities, and penalties can include jail time. As you know, 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.
In 2017, the previous government passed Bill 177, the Stronger, Fairer Ontario Act (Budget Measures), 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 called on the previous government not to carry out the downloading, and so did our members. Fortunately, while this legislation enables downloading, it has not yet been implemented, and there is still time to reverse this poor decision by the previous government. 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. Many municipalities also hire third-party, private law firms to conduct such prosecutions.
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 that are simply accountable to their local leaders. They have fiscal constrains 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, which may in turn contract out the administration of justice to private law firms.
The public needs to have confidence that their safety is the primary consideration in the prosecution of serious Part III offences. 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. Provincial prosecutors are still capably and efficiently doing their jobs in your ministry. 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
Cc: The Honourable Doug Ford, Premier
Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Opposition
Gilles Bisson, MPP; Critic, Ministry of the Attorney General
Tina Stevens, A/MERC Co-Chair, Ministry of the Attorney General, OPSEU