Letter on vacancy ‘insulting’

Duane Hicks

Town council is fuming over the inaction of former Attorney General Madeleine Meilleur to get a new Crown Attorney for Rainy River District.
Now it’s hoping newly-appointed Attorney General Yasir Naqvi will be more receptive to the district’s plight.
At its regular meeting Monday night, council received a letter from Meilleur—addressed to the Rainy River District Municipal Association—stating that Rainy River District currently is being serviced by a Crown Attorney from Kenora.
It also noted she was considering various options related to the Crown Attorney vacancy in Rainy River District, including a review of the needs of the jurisdiction.
No final determination has been made been made regarding the filling of the Crown Attorney position, and no decision will be made until a complete analysis of the needs of the district has been completed, the letter added.
Fort Frances CAO Mark McCaig called the letter “insulting.”
“This is the same thing we heard in the meeting that we had with Madeleine Meilleur [in March],” he noted.
“So when is this actually going to take effect?
“They have been given, chapter and verse, of all of the things not operating effectively over at the [Fort Frances] courthouse as it pertains to the Crown Attorney function and the implications it is having,” McCaig added.
“When is this review going to take place?” he reiterated.
McCaig stressed two of the key pieces of the administration of justice are missing here in Rainy River District—a resident judge and a Crown Attorney.
As a result, the Fort Frances Courthouse has seen “whistle-stop justice,” with a Crown Attorney flown in from Kenora, mix-ups with briefs, hearings by teleconference, and other issues.
“How do you even call it ‘court’ after a while?” McCaig asked.
“It talks to the marginalization of Fort Frances and our area—Rainy River District,” he said. “It’s the erosion of the court services, which are a very important thing. . . .
“Access to justice is different in Fort Frances, clearly,” he charged.
But McCaig also noted with a new Attorney General in place as of Monday, “maybe we have somebody more inclined to want to listen to us.”
“I think the time is right for us to start making some waves again,” said Coun. Wendy Brunetta.
She suggested the town provide the Ministry of the Attorney General with more updated statistics that reflect the need for a Crown Attorney here.
Coun. Brunetta also urged trying to get a videoconference with Naqvi, with the Rainy River District Law Association in attendance.
Delegates also will lobby to get the ear of the Naqvi at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference in Windsor in August, noted Mayor Roy Avis.
He also will send Naqvi a letter, explaining the situation here and requesting a face-to-face meeting over Skype.
Coun. Ken Perry noted the town should act as soon as possible—and be persistent.
“I think the longer we wait, the further back we’re going to be pushed until there is no more Rainy River [District] justice system left,” he warned.
“I’m [ticked] off and I think we should be telling them that,” Coun. Perry added later.