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Ontario Hansard - 28-October2008

Mrs. Christine Elliott: I am the final speaker from the official opposition to speak in support of this motion today, and I have to say at the outset that I am very proud that the leader of the official opposition has persisted in bringing this matter forward. Public safety, as the member from Welland has indicated, is probably one of the most important things that we have to deal with as legislators in this place, and it is really a shame that it was necessary to bring an opposition day motion forward in order to provoke any kind of debate on this topic.

Meanwhile, public confidence in our justice system is eroding quickly, and this has very serious implications because, of course, our rule of law depends upon the effectiveness of our justice system. My colleague the member from Haldimand-Norfolk quite rightly pointed out in his comments that the Caledonia situation is a situation where the rule of law has been seriously threatened over the past two and a half years, and that situation has continued unabated even up to the present time. Yet time and time again, every time we persist in bringing this matter before this Legislature, all we hear from the members opposite is their concern that we need to pressure the federal government to either ban handguns or to change the bail system. But with respect, that's not what this debate is about. This debate is about what this provincial government, the McGuinty government, can and should be doing to make sure that our justice system functions effectively.

The catalyst, of course, for this debate arises out of the violent sexual assaults and deaths of two innocent women in the security of their own home. The person who was accused of these assaults and murders had been released previously pending trial on six counts, including two counts of aggravated sexual assault. But, of course, we're not here to discuss the merits of this particular case, because this matter is before the courts, nor do we want to place the blame, quite frankly, on any one person or judge. And again, the member from Welland quite rightly pointed out that we have an excellent bench here in Ontario. Their credentials could not be challenged and I wouldn't challenge them. I believe we have an excellent bench here in Ontario.

However, there is clearly a systemic problem with our bail system here in Ontario that needs to be addressed, yet it hasn't been, to date. But the problem here is that we don't even know the nature and extent of the problem. How can the Attorney General continue to say that he wants to work with our justice partners to improve the system when he doesn't even know what the problem is? We don't keep statistics regarding bail violations and repeat offences committed by people out on bail, which is inconceivable to most people. This is a government that keeps track of the number of eggs laid in Ontario, but they're not keeping these important judicial statistics.

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The argument has been made that we can't keep these statistics because it will threaten judicial independence, but we're not talking about that. When our leader brought forward the Truth and Transparency in the Justice System Act in December 2006, what we were talking about was changing the Courts of Justice Act in order to keep general records of what is happening in the courts and where the problems are so that they can be addressed. How could we possibly start trying to fix a problem when we can't even articulate what that problem is?

I would say that when this bill was voted down by the government, we lost an opportunity there to do something concrete in order to fix our justice system, but something has to be done now. This is an opportunity for this government to take the necessary steps to commence this inquiry to find out what's wrong because, if this situation continues, quite clearly we're going to have a situation where our rule of law is going to completely break down. If that happens, there are going to be dire consequences for this province.

I implore the government members to reconsider their position on this bill. Please support it. Please do what you need to do to find out what the problem is so that we can collectively work on a solution. People in Ontario expect us to do that: to work together to find a solution.


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