Ontario – Canada’s largest province in terms of population – instructed prosecutors to keep people awaiting trial out of jail.
The move was taken as a measure to find alternatives for pre-trial detention that is responsible for hundreds of people doing jail time for years or month before they get a trial date.
Onerous bail conditions and pre-trial detentions have mostly affected the indigenous people and the minorities living in the province. There has also been an over-representation of the black people among those serving jail-time before trial.
Yasir Naqvi – the Ontario Attorney General said, “People should not be denied bail by the simple virtue of their disadvantage.”
People taken into custody in the province of Ontario are normally released only if they can provide a “surety,” which usually constitutes a close friend or relative pledging their asset(s) and agreeing to supervise the accused as they await trial.
There have been numerous counts where criminologists, lawyers, and judges have acknowledged that sureties disproportionately penalise the heavily policed and/or poor communities settled in Ontario.
Naqvi stated that Crown prosecutors need to act more judiciously when imposing bail conditions and minimise the use of sureties.
Ontario, to date, remains one of the few Canadian provinces with a backlogged bail and criminal justice system. Most of the cases have been a victim of sluggish court ruling processes and restrictive court proceedings for release on bail.
More than half of the prisoners serving jail time in Canadian jails are those awaiting their trial day in court.
During the past year, Ontario made an effort to expand their “bail bed” programs and bail verification programs. These programs have helped people live their pre-trial time in better conditions – not that of a jail, and made it easier for them to acquire bail, subject to regular checks with a case worker.
The province hopes the new stipulations will bring greater flexibility for people awaiting trial and help cut down on the possibilities of any judicial discrimination.
Meagan Kozlovs is a reporter for Debate Report. She’s worked and interned at Global News Toronto and CHECX. Megan is based in Toronto and covers issues affecting her city. In addition to her severe milk shake addiction, she’s a Netflix enthusiast, a red wine drinker, and a voracious reader.