Ontario Court Officials Privately Reprimanded Over Racial Comments


In a controversial move, two senior Ontario court officials – a judge and a justice of the peace – avoided public scrutiny and instead faced disciplinary measures in private in 2022, following complaints related to their comments concerning a young offender of color and an indigenous individual being accused.

These cases were handled discreetly by independent judicial conduct agencies, the Ontario Judicial Council (OJC) and the Justice of the Peace Review Council (JPRC). Instead of commissioning public hearings, the councils submitted the cases to their respective chief justices, ensuring that the identities and courtroom locations of the officials remained hidden.

Public hearings are generally ordered when a committee of either the OJC or JPRC believes that misconduct may be likely. However, most cases are referred to the chief justices of councils who preside over the proceedings behind sealed doors.

In the case of the judge, the chief justice recommended further educational lessons, whereas the justice of the peace was counseled on the importance of language mindfulness. The councils emphasize that the process is intended to be corrective rather than punitive. However, a national civil liberties group has branded the clandestine proceedings and the resultant anonymity as inappropriate from a transparency and accountability perspective.

In both cases, the lack of a public hearing investigating whether the court officials engaged in wrongful conduct by making racist and anti-indigenous comments raises alarm. The group’s lawyer, Shakir Rahim, raised concerns that racialized and indigenous communities might feel reasonably nervous about appearing before these officials due to a perceived bias.

Regarding the judge’s case, they had been sentencing a 15-year-old offender who had confessed to robbery. The comments made by the judge were deemed by the council’s review panel as possibly being seen as racist, xenophobic, culturally insensitive, and in contradiction to rehabilitative principles. The judge’s remarks were particularly distressing as they were aimed at a youth of color suffering from PTSD and undergoing psychiatric medical care.

In response to the complaint, the judge expressed remorse and took full responsibility for his conduct. Following this, the panel deemed further education and counseling beneficial for the judge.

In the case of the justice of the peace, the committee found the official suggested a belief that Indigenous people are given “benefits” compared to other citizens within the legal system. The official referred to this “benefit” or “privilege” the indigenous people receive merely as a result of being Aboriginal.

Racialized groups have historically experienced overrepresentation within the justice and criminal systems. The criminal code order jurists to pay specific attention to releasing Indigenous individuals and other overrepresented vulnerable population members on bail.

The justice of the peace’s comments were seen by the lawyer who lodged the complaint as lacking understanding of the history of Indigenous people or the system meant to address their overrepresentation. In response to the complaint, the justice of the peace acknowledged her choice of words as inappropriate and took measures to educate herself. The committee found it apt to provide written advice to the justice regarding the careful selection of language within the courtroom and decided that no further action was necessary.


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