Monday 20 November
Ottawa’s First Black Justice of the Peace
by Ewart Walters
The Nation’s Capital has got its first Black Justice of the Peace. Ottawa’s Paul Harris was sashed and sworn in before more than 200 family and friends in a crowded Courtroom 37 on Monday November 20.
Also in attendance were members of the judiciary including Justice Hugh Fraser and members of the Justice of the Peace Advisory Committee, as well as Police Chief Charles Bordeleau and city and court officials.
Two other new Justices of the Peace were also sworn in – former Citizen court reporter His Worship Andrew Ian Seymour and Her Worship Anne Margaret Colterman.
A former federal public servant most recently with Parks Canada, His Worship Paul Harris was very active with the Black Canadian Scholarship Fund. His Worship is based in Ottawa but will also preside over courts in Eastern Ontario including Brockville and Cornwall. He is the second Black person in recent times to be appointed to the judicial system in Ottawa following the appointment in February this year of Madame Justice Marlyse Dumel.
Justice Dumel has been with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada since 2004. She has served as secretary of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada’s National Prosecution Policy Committee and as a member of its National Employment Equity Committee. She is also a founding member of the Afro-Caribbean Cotillion, where she mentors young women in job search, résumé writing, and youth and the law sessions.
Both these people have Caribbean connections, Harris with Jamaica and Dumel with Haiti.
The appointments are in keeping with a wave that is beginning to sweep the Province. In October the Ontario Court of Justice announced 10 new judicial appointments for the Toronto area, including two Black women judges.
The appointments of Rita Jean Maxwell and Lori Beth Montague increase the number of Black women judges in the province to eight. The appointments were effective Oct. 11.
Justice Maxwell was most recently legal counsel for the Ontario Court of Appeal, while at the same time acting as an adjunct professor at the Law faculty of the University of Toronto, and at the Ryerson University Law Practice Program. She was called to the bar in 2002.
Justice Montague was most recently a deputy Crown attorney and previously an assistant Crown attorney for Peel Region. She is a volunteer board member with Operation Springboard and has also volunteered with Victim Services of Peel. She was called to the bar in 1987.
So the Province is moving. And Ottawa is moving.
About the writer
Ewart Walters is a journalist, author and former diplomat.
What do Justices of the Peace do?
Justices of the Peace work broadly in two main areas of jurisdiction – criminal law and provincial offences.
Criminal Law Jurisdiction
Justices of the peace preside:
- over virtually all bail hearings in the province, and
- in first appearance and remand courts (appearances that occur prior to a trial).
- receive informations (the documents that commence criminal proceedings)
- issue process in the form of summonses or warrants
- deal with applications for the issuance of search warrants and production orders under the Criminal Code
- deal with applications for peace bonds
- consider applications for warrants to seize weapons, and
- conduct weapons disposition and prohibition hearings.
Provincial Offences Jurisdiction
Justices of the peace exercise jurisdiction over the whole range of provincial offences and offences against municipal bylaws.
In this regard, their duties include:
- issuing process
- receiving applications for warrants, and
- presiding over provincial offence trials under statutes including the Highway Traffic Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Trespass to Property Act, the Safe Streets Act, the Environmental Protection Act, the Liquor Licence Act, and the Consumer Protection Act, and the Dog Owners’ Liability Act, and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act.
A provincial offences trial court presided over by a justice of the peace is a court of competent jurisdiction under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This means that the justice of the peace has authority to grant the range of remedies provided under section 24 of the Charter. During a trial, the justice of the peace will hear and weigh evidence, then deliver a final decision and, if a defendant is convicted, impose a sentence.
In addition to the duties listed above, justices of the peace have a collection of other responsibilities, including:
- conducting hearings and making orders under the Mental Health Act for examination of a person by a physician
- conducting hearings and issuing warrants to apprehend a child pursuant to the Child and Family Services Act for children in need of protection
- presiding at trials of municipal by-law infractions, and
- presiding at trials prosecuted under certain federal legislation, including the Canada Shipping Act and the Motor Vehicle Transport Act.
Source: Ontario Court of Justice