Our society is based on the rule of law—and access to justice is a cornerstone of that long-standing tradition which traces its roots to the Magna Carta signed in England way back in 1215.
Yet here we are in the 21st century and Rainy River District residents are being denied this basic right.
The district remains without a resident judge since Justice Alan Thomas McKay left in 2011—five years ago. And with the retirement of Robert “Buster” Young earlier this year, we also are without a resident Crown Attorney at present.
Despite repeated pleas by Fort Frances and the Rainy River District Law Association, the province clearly is in no hurry to name a new resident judge here—if ever. And given the recent letter received from former Attorney General Madeleine Meilleur, the Wynne government plans to drag its feet on filling the resident Crown Attorney vacancy, as well.
In the meantime, the Fort Frances Courthouse continues to see “whistle-stop justice” (as the town puts it). More and more hearings also are being done by teleconference but the RRDLA notes the equipment here often doesn’t work effectively.
There also is a concern the province’s approach to utilizing technology here is the “default”—in other words, a convenient excuse not to have actual people on hand.
The caseload here certainly dictates the need for a resident Crown Attorney. Most important, having both a resident judge and Crown Attorney is crucial to ensuring access to justice here in Rainy River District.
The current situation is inexcusable and must be rectified immediately.