William Jaksa, a Toronto based criminal defence lawyer, was recently interviewed by Carolyn Jarvis from Global News. The news story focused on the problems and challenges with the supervision of people on probation orders. Jarvis was investigating the supervision of persons on probation in Ontario and across Canada. It’s a story that outlines the current state of probation in Ontario. Specifically on some of the problems and challenges faced by all involved in the criminal justice system.
Here is a link to the story:
Probation in Ontario was originally started to give Judges, the Attorney General and criminal lawyers more sentencing options when determining appropriate sentences. Particularly when dealing with young men between the ages of 18 and 25. The notion was these young men had committed crimes that required punishment, but a jail sentence was likely too harsh. So, rather than imposing just a Fine, the Probation Order was developed. It has expanded significantly over the years to being more than just a method or tool to monitor offenders.
Probation Orders in Ontario
Probation orders go much further now than offer a level of supervision in the community. Today, probation orders are used to ensure that offenders abide by curfews. That they avoid and remain out of certain areas, businesses and have no contact with specific people. Probation orders also give probation supervisors authority to send offenders to assessments for mental health and drug addictions and to order them into treatment and counselling.
But Probation has been used since the middle ages in English common law and routinely in the United States since the late 1700s. In Ontario probation, as we have it today, started to develop after the first world war.
The Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Shoker (2006) and in R. v. Zora (2020) discusses the limits on probation orders and how the court should consider and treat breaches of these orders. Criminal lawyers for years have been concerned about the growing use of probation orders. In many circumstances these orders are adding conditions onto offenders with addictions and mental health issues under the auspices of helping. But these conditions often lead to further criminal charges and increased jail sentences.