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Tories hammer Wynne government over ‘shocking’ security concerns in Ontario’s probation system

Global News expose continues to create outrage at Queen’s Park
WATCH ABOVE: PC leader Patrick Brown questions the Liberal government about the more than 4,500 warrants for alleged violations of probation and conditional sentences .

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown grilled the Liberal government over safety concerns in the province’s probation and parole system, following new revelations from an ongoing Global News investigation.

New data obtained by Global News through  Freedom of Information showed there are just over 4,500 outstanding warrants for alleged violations of probation and conditional sentences in Ontario in 2015/16

WATCH: Who’s Watching? Global News’s investigation into Ontario’s probation system

Probation officers who spoke with Global News said that warrants for breaching probation conditions are rarely executed and little is being done at the provincial level to track down offenders.

“4,513. That is how many outstanding warrants there in Ontario for probation violations,” Brown said at Queen’s Park Thursday. “Shocking, Mr. Speaker — how many of these 4,513 are sexual predators, pedophiles or violent criminals?”

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READ MORE: 4,500 outstanding warrants for alleged probation and conditional sentence violations in Ontario

Warrants are issued when an offender is accused of breaking the conditions of their probation or conditional sentence. Examples of this include failing to check in with their probation officer, consuming drugs and alcohol or owning a weapon when they were told not to.

One individual could have multiple warrants, and it’s possible that people might be in custody without having their warrants executed.

Marie-France Lalonde, Ontario’s minister of community safety and correctional services, repeated similar talking points from Premier Kathleen Wynne yesterday emphasizing Ontario’s safety.

“Our government takes the safety of our community very seriously, Mr. Speaker, and in partnership with our police services and our justice partners we’ve made Ontario one of the safest jurisdictions in North America,” Lalonde said. “For 11 straight years, Ontario has had the lowest crime rate of any province or territory in Canada.”

READ MORE: Ontario’s probation system ‘a joke,’ say offenders

Lalonde has said she would need more time to further investigate the more 4,500 outstanding warrants.

Global’s report highlighted the work of the Repeat Offenders Parole Enforcement (ROPE) squad, a partnership between OPP and municipal police officers that tracks down offenders alleged to have broken the conditions of their federal parole.

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However, there is no unit like ROPE that focuses solely on provincial probationers.

“If we’re looking for those who breached federal parole, why are we not doing that provincially?” Brown asked. “I’m struggling to get an answer here.”

Lalonde didn’t respond to Brown and instead referred to his time as federal MP under the former Harper government.

PC MPP Todd Smith said the Liberals need to move to ensure probation officers have the resources to do home visits.

“First of all, [they should] not treat situation as if it’s fake news,” Smith told reporters at Queen’s Park. “These are real stories that are happening in our community and they need to take it seriously.”

WATCH: A look at Ontario’s troubled probation system

Attorney General Yasir Naqvi said the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services has been focused on making changes to the entire corrections system in Ontario by hiring more  correctional officers, probation officers and parole officers.

“[We are] making sure that they have all the right tools and training to ensure that we keep our communities safe,” Naqvi said.

The Progressive Conservatives have called on Ombudsman Paul Dubé to investigate the province’s “badly broken” probation system.

A spokesperson for the ombudsman said there is “no set timeframe” to respond to calls for an investigation.

“Our staff will gather information needed to assess the issue,” Linda Williamson said in an email. “Where the Ombudsman decides to launch a formal investigation, the relevant ministry or other organization being investigated is notified.”

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