Chiefs of Ontario Launch Lawsuit over Failures of Justice System in Ontario

Chiefs of Ontario - Glen Hare ORC
Chiefs of Ontario - Glen Hare ORC

TORONTO – NATIONAL – The Chiefs of Ontario (COO) are launching litigation against Ontario and Canada for failing to provide First Nations with equal access to justice and the rule of law as other Canadians. This discrimination causes serious harm and hardship to First Nations.

COO was directed to commence this lawsuit by a unanimous resolution passed by the Chiefs-in-Assembly after years of attempting to work with the Ford government on addressing serious flaws with its new Community Safety and Policing Act (CSPA), which explicitly excludes the enforcement of First Nations by-laws from mandatory police functions.

The Act was passed by the legislature in 2019 and came into force on April 1, 2024.

“This legislation has always been discriminatory, but ignoring the serious concerns of First Nations was the final straw,” said Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare. “Ontario had nearly five years to fix a preventable problem and they did not. This offensive legislation contributes to years of issues with both Ontario and Canada, who provide enforcement and prosecution everywhere in the province, except for our laws in our communities.”

First Nation laws are often needed to address important safety issues such as land regulation, law and order, tenancies, substance control, and the exclusion of dangerous individuals from communities. These by-laws require both enforcement — which is optional for police forces under the CPSA — and prosecution, which has not been possible, as Ontario and Canada do not provide prosecutorial services for First Nations laws.

“Ontario and Canada have stated that they respect our governments, yet they do not work to ensure that their police respect our laws, and their lawyers continue to prosecute people who violate these laws — even if we ask for help. They cannot have it both ways,” said Regional Chief Hare.

Ontario and Canada have declined repeated requests and recommendations to address these enforcement and prosecution gaps. As a result, First Nations do not have equitable access to justice.

“Litigation is always a measure of last resort. In this case, it is clearly necessary, as vulnerable people are suffering in our communities. First Nations are asking for something that every other community in Ontario is provided with. Enforcing the rule of law should not be discretionary and keeping people safe should not be made into a political issue. If Ontario and Canada truly believed in safe communities, we would not be going to court.”

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