(THUNDER BAY, ON) – Justice of the Peace Anna Gibbon spoke up in court today in what appears to be her advocating for more people to be released from jail. She tells the courts that communities that accused persons come from carry a burden along with family members and police when accused persons are flown out. She mentions how people who need to goto Sioux Lookout for court and are being held at the Kenora District Jail and have a 4-5 hour trip in police custody, depending on weather.
She presses on that “I know that you’re doing what you have to do, but really understand and consider where we are living here. It’s not simply having someone coming from the district jail in 15 minutes or a half an hour. Because of our geographical location this is a tremendous undertaking of all parties. If the Crown can in any….. I appreciate that your having to put community safety to the top of your mind.. and many of these communities don’t have policing services,,,, I can appreciate that as well, it’s a really difficult balance.”
Further… “When we have people breaching alcohol, curfew, and there’s no substantive charges after that…. really take into… a really hard look at that and say ‘Really is it in the public interest to show cause or have them show cause?’ You also have a responsibility to do that as well. This is… we have… Just Nishnawbe Aski Nation alone covers the size of France, ma’am. So just to give you an understanding of that. That one… one nation alone covers the size of France. So when we’re shipping people all over the province and then to get them home? Especially if it’s their onus? Crown doesn’t always send them home.”
Justice of the Peace Anna Gibbon continued pressing “When we’re talking about Indigenous people’s, we’re talking about poverty, we’re talking about exceptional distances here, exceptional costs, a flight to some of these communities costs a thousand dollars. So when we look at Gladue, that’s what I’m really asking you to do is to find Gladue pre-bail because for many of these people getting home is virtually impossible and then they have breached because they have to go home to live. It’s a vicious cycle and I’m really truly looking forward to Bill C75 so that some of these conditions can’t ever be applied that is literally just creating this vicious cycle for everybody.”
“So if there is something you can do ma’am to really put to your mind, ‘is this truly a safety issue?’. ‘If there is some possible way that this person could be released?'” Justice of the Peace Gibbon said.
Justice of the Peace Anna Gibbon mentions how previously she stood down court so that more information could be gathered so that a bail plan could be crafted for someone from a northern community. She says court was stood down and that later on the bail plan was crafted and the accused was released. Officers thanked Justice of the Peace Anna Gibbon for taking the time to do that as it relieved them of a tremendous amount of work to ensure the accused got flown out to the district jail.
Some northern communities only have 1 officer working “… so to now fly somebody out, how do they do that? ok? So the challenges we face here in the north for justice are like nothing you’ll experience anywhere else you work ma’am unless you goto the far north. It’s really really challenging, so if you can, pre-bail, look at Gladu and say ‘How is this, you know, being meaningful?’ and ‘How are we applying this for many people coming into our court?’. You know… and… I think given the limited resources of policing, given the limited resources of the district jails, all of the district jails are in crisis. Right? I was up in Kenora and they had a lockdown in Kenora.”
“So again, if there’s opportunity here, please, I implore you to explore every opportunity. I know I’m asking you to take risks, but that’s what our jobs are, right?”
Everyone in court was basically silent and listening to Justice of the Peace Anna Gibbon express her thoughts on the low amount of people being released. The Crown’s job first and foremost is to ensure the public safety and to protect victims from their abusers, not the inconvenience of going through the justice system, although a balance does need to be weighed, should they be arrested.