serious shortage of Justices of the Peace in Ontario means that it can
take hours for police to obtain a second warrant at night, and apparently
pot smokers are using that opportunity to ditch their stashes. “If we can’t
get ahold of a JP, we can’t do our job” says Officer Steven Rogers, deputy
chief of police in Barrie, Ontario.
There are over 100 vacancies to fill for JPs, and recent cost cutting by
the Ontario government has reduced funding to perform this service.
A new trend in Canadian policing is about to take shape that will end pot
being flushed down toilets or raced out the back door while police officers
wait around for hours to get a second warrant.
Ontario will appoint 6 new JPs to staff a 24 hour “telewarrant centre”
by early 1997. Using special “encrypted” fax machines designed to thwart
electronic interception, police will be able to fax requests for search
warrants at any hour of the day or night, says Tom Fagan, a lawyer heading
up the project in the Attorney-General’s ministry. Search warrants can
be faxed to police officers who will then go in and make their busts.
A swift and silent amendment to the Criminal Code passed last year legalizes
the procedure, and in fact this fax-a-warrant is already in place in Alberta,
BC, Manitoba, New Brunswick, and Quebec. Since 1994, Ontario JPs were converted
from 500 part-timers paid on a fee-for-service to a more independent, full
time salaried body of 300.
Telewarranting means fewer JPs are needed to do the job of approving search
warrants, and the savings to the taxpayer may be diverted to the hiring
of more police officers to watch over us.
There are many questions still to be answered now that JPs are becoming
mere office workers. How long will it be before they will seek collective
bargaining for job security, benefits, and pensions? And will they have
the right to go on strike?
Dr Alexander Sumach