My vantage point has been as a trial judge in the Ontario Court of Justice, where judges appointed by the provincial government do the great bulk of criminal court work in the province. I spent most of my career in three large urban criminal courts.
Brampton, to the west of Toronto, is the home of Pearson International Airport. The very busy Brampton court deals with drugs, immigration and other charges arising at the airport, and a heavy caseload of drinking and driving offences. Scarborough, in the eastern part of Toronto, is a formerly pastoral community, later plagued with the problems endemic to “at risk” areas, including inter-ethnic rivalries, guns and gangs, and serious youth crime. The Old City Hall is in the heart of downtown Toronto, across from the “New” City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square. It is the largest of Ontario’s provincial courts. It deals with crimes arising “on the streets,” in the Entertainment District, and from the Bay Street business community. It also handles all federal offences in Toronto, and all drinking and driving charges arising from the 400-series highways around the City.
Although all judges of the Ontario Court apply the same law, the real nature of their work reflects the local community. Judges in other places may well have had a different experience from my own. Other participants in the system will have their own perspective. This blog reflects my experience only. All opinions expressed in the posts of this blog are my own.
Prior to my appointment to the Bench, I worked as a policy advisor for the Ontario Ministry of Labour, was the first General Counsel and Executive Director of Justice of Children (now the Canadian Foundation for Children and the Law), was a co-founder of CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario), and was a founding partner in an all-women’s law firm now known as Dickson, MacGregor, Appell. I represented clients in Youth Court, criminal, family, employment, and special education matters. In private practice, I also acted as legal consultant to the Rules Committee of the Ontario Provincial Court, and the Metro Toronto Chairman’s Special Committee on Child Abuse. In the latter role, I coördinated the development of a protocol for the investigation and prosecution of child sexual abuse cases in Metropolitan Toronto. This was the first such protocol in Canada and widely copied afterwards.
I have a B.A. (Honours History) from the University of British Columbia, an M.A. (Canadian History) from the University of Toronto, an LL.B. from Osgoode Law School of York University, and an LL.M. from the University of California at Berkeley. On the Bench, I was active over the years in judicial and schools education, and in many delay reduction and case management initiatives.
In many ways, this blog continues my ongoing interest in community legal education, institutional analysis, and law reform. Leopards don’t change their spots, and I guess I haven’t either.