The Players

What a typical Ontario Court of Justice looks like.

Who will conduct the trial?

There will be a number of people, all with different roles and titles that will influence the outcome of your trial.  Ultimately, however, it will be the Justice of the Peace (a.k.a. the “JP”) or the Judge who will make the final decision(s).  There are several others:

  1. The City Prosecutor
  2. Courtroom Clerk/Reporter
  3. Interpreters (languages other than English/French & Sign language)
  4. Witnesses for Crown/Prosecutor (Police, Law Enforcement Officer)

What is the difference between a J.P. and a Provincial Judge?

There are very distinct differences between a Justice of the Peace (J.P) and a Judge:

A Judge has generally practiced law, as a lawyer, for at least 10 years before being appointed as a Judge, either to the Ontario Court of Justice (the lower or Provincial Division) by the Provincial Ministry of the Attorney General and to the Superior Court of Justice (the higher or general division) by the Federal Ministry of the Attorney General. Generally, Judges earn about $250,000.00 a year and do not, as a rule hear trials related to the Highway Traffic Act. The areas of law that judges deal with is criminal, civil and family law. As a rule, in Ontario, Provincial Judges hear and determine over 90 % of the criminal matters in Ontario.  There are approximately 280 full-time judges (all appointed by the Provincial Government) in Ontario who are employed to serve approximately 13 million people who live and work in Ontario and hear matters in 200 Courthouses across Ontario.

There are approximately 350 Justices of the Peace, who work 200 Courthouses across Ontario and as of June 2, 2008 can now work until they are seventy-five (75) years old (as opposed to 70 years old prior to June 2, 2008) subject to the annual approval of the Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice. See the decision further down on the page, referring to section 15 of the Charter .

A Justice of the Peace (or J.P.) unlike a Judge, does not have to have comprehensive legal training and is not required to be a lawyer to be appointed as a J.P.  Those who are appointed to the position of J.P. are considered laypersons, not lawyers.  J.P’s are required to strictly comply with the Justice of the Peace Act, R.S.O. 1990 and act as independent Judicial Officers. In October 2006 the Access to Justice Act was passed and this brought in some significant changes for J.P’s:

A New Justice of the Peace Appointments Advisory Committee was established and minimum qualifications for appointments were established – ie requiring a degree from university or a community college diploma or equivalency, including life experience and at least 10 years paid or volunteer work experience.  Upon being appointed, J.P.’s receive between 6 months and 12 months of training.

Non-presiding J.P.’s earn approximately $ 85,000.00 a year, while presiding J.P.’s earn over $100,000.00 a year, about three times less than that of a Provincial Judge.  There are part-time and full-time J.P’s.  There are approximately 320 J.P.’s in Ontario.

The majority of the work of a J.P. is:

  • hearing bail applications
  • issuing search warrants(including telephone search warrants)
  • hearing matters falling under the Provincial Offences Act, including the Highway Traffic Act and all tickets related (parking and all moving offences)

Upon entering a Court Room, how can you distinguish a Provincial Judge from a Justice of the Peace?

There are at least two ways of telling the difference between a Judge and a J.P:

  1. The attire:  A Provincial Judge will wear his/her robes with a red sash over their shoulder(s), whereas a J.P. will wear his/her robes with a green sash over their shoulder.
  2. How they are addressed by the Crown/Prosecutor: A Judge will be referred to as “your honour” whereas a J.P. will be referred to as “your worship

Is it necessary for Prosecutors to be lawyers and a member of the Bar (Law Society of Upper Canada)?

No.  It isn’t necessary, but for practical reasons they should be.  If they are not a lawyer, then they have to be supervised by a Crown Attorney (who are always lawyers and members of the Bar).

When do Justices of the Peace have to retire, while working in Ontario?

Several former Justices of the Peace (Brenna Brown, Moreland Lynn and Meena Nadkarni) were forced to retire at the age of 70 in accordance with sub-sections 5.1(1) paragraph 3, 5.1 (2), 5.1 (3) and 6 of the Justices of the Peace Act. These former J.P’s and the Association of Justices of the Peace of Ontario decided to challenge the constitutionality of the this Act and filed a law suit against the Attorney General of Ontario.

The case was heard in the Superior Court of Ontario on Feb. 27 & 28, 2008 by Judge G.R.Strathy, J.  The question that this Superior Court Judge had to answer was the following:

“Does Mandatory retirement at the age of seventy (70) violate the Charter, Part I of the Constitution Act, 1982, being schedule B to the Canada Act, 1982 (U.K) 1982, c.11 (the “Charter“). Specifically, do s.s.5.1 para 3, 5.1 (2), 5.1 (3) and 6 of the Justices of the Peace Act R.S.O. 1990, c.J.4 as amended, violate section 15 of the Charter?.

He analyzed the evidence presented.  Among other things, he examined the changing demographics of Canadian Society and the stereotypes associated with aging. By the year, 2021 Ontario will be home to three (3) million people over the age of 65.

On June 2, 2008 when the decision was released Judge George Strathy found that retirement at the age of 70 for Ontario Justices of the Peace couldn’t be justified under s.1 of the Charter. He found that the Ontario Provincial government failed to meet the minimum impairment and proportionality branches of the s. 1 test of the Charter. Judge Strathy concluded that mandatory retirement of Justices of the Peace at age 70 violates their rights under section 15 of the Charter and that this limit has not been justified under section 1 of the Charter.  He ruled that a Justice of the Peace can work to the age of 75, subject to annual approval of the Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice. See Decision.

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