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Statement from CLA President, Boris Bytensky

The @ClaOntario acknowledges today’s funding announcement by @douglasdowney @ONAttorneyGen to hire additional judges and crown prosecutors to help address ongoing significant delays in the criminal justice system. While these resources are sorely needed and will assist, a fair, equitable and properly functioning criminal judicial system can not exist when only two of the three major participants are properly funded. The number of self-represented individuals in Ontario’s courts has more than tripled in the last 5 years. Most fail to qualify for legal aid funding because of badly outdated financial eligibility guidelines that have remained unchanged for far too long. Also, while legal aid tariff enhancements have been made in recent years, when adjusted for cost of living and inflation, we are still far behind where we were 10, 20 or 30 years ago. Perhaps for this reason, nearly three times as many legal aid certificates are unacknowledged (meaning indigent defendants cannot find lawyers to take their case) today than in pre-pandemic times. Ontario deserves a justice system that is fair for everyone. Properly funding the judiciary and the prosecution is important and appreciated, but it is not enough. Properly funding indigent accused, and counsel who assist them at far-below-market rates, is also needed to ensure that justice is truly done. We hope to give credit to those announcements really soon.

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