Mayor pleased with new Crown attorney

Duane Hicks

The appointment of a new resident Crown attorney to Rainy River District is welcome news to Fort Frances Mayor Roy Avis.
Crown attorney Colleen Hepburn started April 21, filling the vacancy left by former Crown attorney Robert “Buster” Young, who has appointed back in 2000 by Order-in-Council.
“For the community, it’s a very, very good thing,” Mayor Avis said Monday.
He wished Hepburn “all of the best” now that she’s come to “the great northwest.”
After Brown’s retirement at the end of 2015, town council lobbied the Ministry of the Attorney General “extensively” to secure a resident Crown attorney to fill the vacant position for Rainy River District, Mayor Avis noted.
“It was very much needed,” he stressed, adding that after the loss of a permanent Crown attorney here, prosecutorial coverage for the district was handled by Crowns from the neighbouring jurisdiction of Kenora.
But some parties–including members of the local legal community-felt “the citizens of the district were not getting the access to justice that they should as citizens of Ontario,” said Mayor Avis.
Because the Crowns already had a full workload in their own district, they usually only had time to attend the criminal court proceeding they were in town for.
As such, it was difficult for defence lawyers here to arrange meetings to review files, as well as discuss charges and pleas.
The local legal community reported that not having a resident Crown attorney meant delays in bail hearings and the setting of trial dates, an increase in adjournments, and more paperwork.
Last July, the ministry posted a job listing advertising a one-year contract for a new Crown attorney in the district.
But this was met by more pressure to make the position a permanent one–not just a one-year term.
Then in August, Attorney General Yasir Naqvi assured town representatives attending the Association of Municipalities Ontario conference in Windsor that the district indeed would be getting a permanent Crown attorney–it was just a matter of time.
In a statement to the Times, the Ministry of the Attorney General said “improving access to justice is a key priority for the ministry.”
“It is also important that the residents of Fort Frances and Rainy River have access to the legal services they need, when they need them,” it added.
“Ms. Hepburn welcomes the opportunity to serve the citizens of Fort Frances and the District of Rainy River,” the ministry noted.
Hepburn, originally from Sault Ste. Marie, obtained her undergraduate degree from Laurentian University in Sudbury, then earned her Master’s degree from the University of Guelph and her LL.B. from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.
Law is her second career having been a teacher, which included teaching English to students at Algoma University, the University of Guelph, and Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.
She also spent a year in China teaching English to middle school English teachers.
Hepburn later articled at Crown Law Office Criminal with the Ministry of the Attorney General and was called to the bar in 2000.
She is very experienced in both appellate work and in trial matters, having worked in the appellate division of the Crown Law Office Criminal and as an trial Crown in Toronto, Parry Sound, and Sudbury.
For four years, she was dedicated to child abuse prosecutions in Toronto.
Most recently, Hepburn was working for the Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service before being selected to fill the vacant Crown attorney position here.