The Society, along with the Ontario Crown Attorneys’ Association, Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union and the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, staged protests and a press conference over plans to close courthouses in suburban Toronto communities.
The Ontario government is pursuing a forced amalgamation of courts across Toronto. Courts in Scarborough, Etobicoke and North York will be shuttered and merged into the New Toronto Courthouse, located in downtown Toronto. Experts have warned that this will create public safety issues as organized crime groups are all funneled into the same area.
The Society’s Legal Aid Ontario Local Vice President Dana Fisher also noted that the amalgamation will have wide ranging impacts on the justice system that add costs and reduce access to the courts.
“The stress brought on by centralizing justice services downtown will lead to many people simply not showing up to court,” said Fisher at a May press conference. “Whether it is victims, witnesses or accused persons, not showing up to court has consequences for both the individual and the justice system as a whole.”
“As individual impacts compound into systemic problems, people lose faith in the justice system, costs spiral out of control, and we see more people imprisoned for nonviolent offenses,” Fisher concluded.
LAO Local Unit Director Alika Hendricks, who represents members in the GTA, spoke at an Etobicoke rally opposing that community’s courthouse closure.
“Closing community courthouses exacerbates systemic discrimination,” said Hendricks. “We know that Black and Indigenous people are already overrepresented in the carceral system.”
“Amalgamating all of the criminal courts downtown was a bad idea when the previous Liberal government proposed it. It’s still a bad idea under Premier Doug Ford’s Conservative government,” Hendricks stated.
The Society, Ontario Crown Attorneys’ Association, OPSEU and others will continue pressing the Ford government to correct its mistake on courthouses.