The Provincial Offences Act (POA) governs much of the process for the prosecution and enforcement of offences that are created by provincial legislation and regulation and municipal by-laws. Each year the POA governs the procedure for millions of charges that are laid in such diverse areas as parking, driving, health and safety and the environment. As a result the POA touches and affects many Ontarians. The POA came into force nearly 30 years ago, and since that time the legal landscape in Canada has changed considerably. Some notable developments include the introduction of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, amendments to the Criminal Code and the increased use of administrative monetary penalties (AMPs) to deal with regulatory non-compliance in a forum other than a court. In December 2007, the Law Commission of Ontario (LCO) received a proposal from Kenneth Jull for a project to revise the POA and more generally there is great interest from a number of different organizations and individuals in reform of the POA. It was against this backdrop that on April 2, 2009 the Board of Governors of the LCO approved a project on the modernization of the POA. After a review of the literature and informal discussions with many organizations and individuals, the LCO has identified several issues that may be vital to the modernization of the POA and warrant inclusion in this Consultation Paper. In addition to your responses to the specific questions that are set out in Part IV of this Consultation Paper, the LCO is interested in your comments on the threshold question of whether each identified issue should be pursued and ultimately addressed in the LCO’s final report on the Modernization of the POA. It is not possible for this Paper to address all the issues relating to the POA that require consideration, however, the LCO believes that the issues raised in this Paper would significantly contribute to the much needed modernization and reform of the POA and should not impede any future examination of other concerns that might occur. That being said, the LCO welcomes suggestions for the inclusion of issues in the final report that are not covered by the Consultation Paper. Submissions that relate to a specific part of Ontario (e.g. a particular municipality) are also of great interest to the LCO. In addition, the LCO has chosen not to address any issues that are already being addressed in the Provincial Offences Act Streamlining Review consultation paper. The Streamlining Review consultation paper contained a number of issues that the LCO might well have otherwise considered, including the use of audio and video appearances in POA proceedings, the reform of search warrant provisions to permit judicial authorization of modern investigative techniques and whether there is a need to codify the requirements for a plea comprehension inquiry. Section II of the Consultation Paper briefly overviews the purpose of the POA and some of the tensions that underlie the various calls for reform. Section III of the Paper provides some background information to each of the specific issues and lists questions on which the LCO would like to receive input. For ease of reference, Section IV lists all of the questions that are spread throughout Section III. This Paper marks the first step in the project. The LCO will carry out extensive consultations over the next three months. It welcomes your written comments in accordance with the instructions in Section V of this Paper, as well as any oral feedback that you would like to provide. This Consultation Paper has been distributed to stakeholders for their input as well as posted on the LCO website. Based on the LCO’s continued research and the input that it receives on this Paper, the LCO will identify the issues on which it will focus. We will engage in on-going consultation and benefit from the Advisory Group created in relation to this project. The members of the Advisory Group already include representatives from academia, the Ministry of the Attorney General, the defence bar, the municipalities and the Paralegal Society of Ontario. The representation of the completed Group may be even broader. Finally, the LCO would like to thank those people with whom we consulted with in the preparation of this Consultation Paper.
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