Information about the Review Council
Justices of the Peace in Ontario
Justices of the Peace play an important role in the administration of justice in Ontario. They are appointed by the Province of Ontario and have their duties assigned by a senior judicial officer – the Associate Chief Justice – Coordinator of Justices of the Peace. Justices of the Peace who are assigned to preside in court routinely conduct trials under the Provincial Offences Act and preside over bail hearings. When not in court, they perform a number of judicial functions, including issuing search warrants.
The Role of the Justices of the Peace Review Council
The Justices of the Peace Review Council is a Council established by the Province of Ontario under the Justices of the Peace Act. The Review Council has a mandate to receive and investigate complaints against justices of the peace, review and approve standards of conduct, deal with the continuing education plan and decide whether a justice of the peace may engage in other remunerative work. The Review Council is made up of judges, justices of the peace, a member of the Law Society of Ontario, and four community representatives. The Review Council does not have the power to interfere with or change a decision made by a justice of the peace. Only an appeal court can do that.
Further to s. 13(1) of the Justices of the Peace Act, on December 7, 2007, the Review Council approved the Principles of Judicial Office for Justices of the Peace of the Ontario Court of Justice. In addition, in 2023, the Associate Chief Justice Co-ordinator of Justices of the Peace proposed to the Justices of the Peace Review Council that the Canadian Judicial Council's Ethical Principles for Judges (2021) form part of the ethical standards governing the conduct of justices of the peace. The Review Council agreed and they form part of the ethical standards governing the conduct of justices of the peace of the Ontario Court of Justice.
What can I complain to the Review Council about?
You can complain to the Justices of the Peace Review Council about the conduct of a justice of the peace of the Ontario Court of Justice, but not about the decisions they make in cases they hear. The Review Council does not have authority to review the correctness of a justice of the peace's decision, or to determine if a justice of the peace made an incorrect finding of fact, wrongly applied the law, or erred in the exercise of their discretion. Correcting these types of errors is the role of an appellate court, and not the Review Council.
The Review Council does not have authority to:
- change a justice of the peace's ruling or a decision
- order a new trial
- order that a particular justice of the peace not hear a case
As noted, you may complain to the Justices of the Peace Review Council about the conduct of a justice of the peace of the Ontario Court of Justice. Conduct refers to the way a person behaves, especially in a particular place or situation or towards others. Justices of the peace are expected to display a high standard of personal conduct both in court and in public. The Principles of Judicial Office and the Canadian Judicial Council's Ethical Principles for Judges (2021) set out the ethical guidelines expected of Ontario Provincial Court justices of the peace. Misconduct would amount to conduct unbecoming a justice of the peace and/or neglect of duty.
Making a Complaint
If you have a complaint of misconduct about a justice of the peace in Ontario, you must state your complaint in a signed letter. The letter of complaint should include the date, time and place of the court hearing and as much detail as possible about why you feel there was misconduct. If your complaint involves an incident outside the courtroom, you will need to provide as much information as you can about what you feel was misconduct on the part of the justice of the peace.
You do not need a lawyer to make a complaint and there is no fee. Please indicate in your letter if there is a specific title, pronoun or form of address you would like Council staff to use when communicating with you.
Anonymous complaints, complaints without a return address, complaints that contain rude, abusive or threatening language, and complaints that appear to be merely academic or mischievous inquiries will not be examined.
Written complaints should be mailed or faxed to:
The Justices of the Peace Review Council
1 Queen Street East, Box 65
How are Complaints Processed?
When the Justices of the Peace Review Council receives your letter of complaint, the Review Council will write to you to let you know your letter has been received
If your complaint is within the Review Council’s jurisdiction, a three-member complaint committee of the Review Council will investigate your complaint and gather whatever information it deems necessary to complete its investigation (for example, copies of the transcript of a hearing). Each complaint committee is made up of a judge, a justice of the peace and a lay member of the Review Council. Every complaint is investigated by the Review Council under s. 11 of the Justices of the Peace Act.
Section 11 of the Act provides that the preliminary investigation into a complaint shall be held in private.
Section 11 of the Act also provides that, after investigation, the Review Council may dismiss a complaint if there is no judicial misconduct, invite the justice of the peace to attend before them in order to address issues raised in the complaint that are of concern to the Council, refer the complaint to the Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice to speak to the justice of the peace about concerns raised in the complaint or order that a formal, public hearing into the complaint be held by a hearing panel made up of other members of the Review Council who were not involved in the initial investigation of the complaint.
If a public hearing is held, and misconduct is found at the end of the hearing, the range of disciplinary measures that can be imposed extends from a warning to the justice of the peace about his or her conduct to a recommendation to the Legislature of Ontario that he or she be removed from office.
Regardless of what decision is made about a complaint, the person who made the complaint and the justice of the peace about whom the complaint is made will be advised, in writing, of the decision of the Review Council.
Just a reminder
The Justices of the Peace Review Council may only investigate complaints about the conduct of justices of the peace. If you are unhappy with the outcome of a proceeding, please consult with a lawyer to determine your options for appeal.
Any complaint about the conduct of provincially-appointed judges in Ontario should be directed to the Ontario Judicial Council.
Any complaint about the conduct of a federally-appointed judge in Ontario should be directed to the Canadian Judicial Council in Ottawa.
For further information
If you need additional information or further assistance, in the greater Toronto area, please call (416) 327-5672. If you are calling long distance, please dial the toll-free number: 1-800-806-5186. TTY (teletypewriter) – Use Bell’s Relay Service: 1-800-855-0511.