Legal Aid Ontario Local representatives appeared on Parliament Hill this month to make submissions on Bill C-75, a government bill to reform Canada’s criminal justice system. Lawyers and Local Committee members Kendall Yamagishi and Garrett Zher presented on behalf of the Society.
LAO lawyers represent low-income and vulnerable accused persons and are believed to represent about 80% of people seeking bail in Ontario. As Bill C-75 would result in broad reform to the criminal justice system, Yamagishi and Zher focused on the areas most relevant to their work: police, judicial interim release (bail) and offences against the administration of justice.
While the Society representatives noted areas in which the LAO Lawyers Local agreed with the proposed legislation they also highlighted five areas of concern: the use of written rather than oral evidence from police, reduction in the use of preliminary hearings, upholding minimum mandatory sentences, the extension of summary conviction maximum sentences to 24 months, and maintaining the current pre-sentence custody credit regime.
A third Society member, Senior Litigator Stephanie Heyens, appeared before the committee as an individual.
The Society submission was well-received by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Following their appearance, Society members had a chance to discuss the issues further in conversation with committee chair Anthony Housefather (LIB) and vice-chair Murray Rankin (NDP).