Opposition parties call for investigation into Ontario’s ‘badly broken’ probation system
Ontario opposition parties are calling for the ombudsman to launch an investigation into the province’s probation and parole system, following an investigation by Global News.
Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown called on Ombudsman Paul Dube to look into the province’s “badly broken” probation system after a three-month long investigation by Global News revealed warnings from both offenders and probation officers who say there is a significant lack of supervision of people on probation.
“The government has let Ontario families down by allowing violent sex offenders in our communities to go unchecked,” Brown said in a statement Wednesday. “By brushing aside these explosive revelations, they have shown an arrogance and indifference that is an insult to the victims of violent crimes.”
NDP MPP Peter Tabuns said he supported calls for the ombudsman to investigate.
“Having the ombudsman investigate this kind of problem makes sense,” Tabuns said. “They have done really good work in the past.”
At Queen’s Park Wednesday, Brown continued to hammer the Liberal government for “failing to ensure the public’s safety” and called for Attorney General Yasir Naqvi to be fired.
“[Naqvi] can pass the buck to someone who has been on the job for less than five months or he can own up to the systemic failure in a system that he oversaw for two years,” he said. “This is his mess and he should take responsibility.”
WATCH: Reaction from Queen’s Park following Global’s investigation on Ontario’s probation system
Marie-France Lalonde is Ontario’s minister of community safety and correctional services, which is responsible for the province’s probation and parole system.
Naqvi, currently the attorney general of Ontario, was corrections minister for approximately two years from 2014 to 2016.
Premier Kathleen Wynne defended Naqvi saying she refused to “vilify” one person for a systemic problem.
“Obviously there are situations that are of great concern to all of us,” Wynne said. “We are working to deal with those. In partnership with our police services and justices partners, we’ve made Ontario one of the safest jurisdictions in North America.”
A spokesperson for the Ombudsman said they have received Brown’s request for an investigation.
“We will assess the request and the issue according to our normal process, to determine whether or not an investigation is warranted,” Linda Williamson said in an email. “The Ombudsman would not comment on the matter at this point.”
We will assess the request and the issue according to our normal process, to determine whether or not an investigation is warranted. The Ombudsman would not comment on the matter at this point.
Tabuns said the issue is a lack of resources for probation officers across the province.
“From talking to parole officers they don’t have the resources on the front lines to deal with the case loads they have,” he said. “If you under resource then you’re not going to have the supervision that people expect.”
Global highlighted the case of Kyle McLauchlan who was convicted of child luring in 2013. He was sentenced to 18 months in jail, three years of probation, and 20 years on the sex offender registry.
Following his release from jail, he moved to Oshawa, Ont., where he was prohibited by a judge from using a computer or any device that accesses the internet and not to be in the presence of any child under the age of 16.
As part of his probation, he was told to “self-report” any violations.
On Jan. 13, 2015, McLauchlan was found inside the Durham public library trying to lure a young girl online.
“It would be very disturbing to me if I found that that was the result of a sentence that I would impose,” Ontario Justice Colin Westman told Global News. “If we are going to impose the conditions we should be backing them up.”
Brown called it “ridiculous” that high-risk offenders in the province aren’t receiving home visits from probation officers.
“Our probation officers are saying there is a major risk to community safety here,” said a fiery Brown in the legislature. “Can you imagine that someone who is convicted of child luring and is out on probation and there is no one checking up on him? It’s ridiculous and offensive.”
Wynne said she takes the situation seriously along with the attorney general and minister of community, safety and correctional services.
“Of course there is more we can do more,” the premier said. “We are hiring more officers and putting more resources in place.”
In a new report Wednesday, Global News found there are 4,513 outstanding warrants for alleged violations of probation and conditional sentences in Ontario in 2015/16.
Warrants are issued when an offender is accused of breaking the conditions of their probation or conditional sentence.
Probation officers who spoke with Global say there isn’t enough being done to track down people in the province with outstanding warrants.
In one case, a warrant was issued for a Caleb Heaton, a convicted criminal, for breaching his probation conditions in Ontario in November 2014. He was arrested in Vancouver a few months later following a violent home invasion and sexual assault.
Lalonde said she would need more time to look into the numbers but added she was “open to having a conversation about how to improve the system.”
“I already met with the parole and probation officer executive from a union perspective and he knows that I want to re-engage,” Lalonde said. “I really want to hear the solution that they are bringing forward.”
READ: Letter from PC Leader Patrick Brown to Ontario Ombudsman calling for an investigation into province’s probation system
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