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Opposition mounting against AMPS

Opposition is ramping up against a government proposal aimed at reducing court costs by rolling out an online dispute system for provincial offences that Toronto paralegal Marian Lippa — and other vocal critics — says would deny a person’s constitutional right to justice. 

“The opposition is a good thing — it will get the facts out to the public about how this system, if implemented, will affect them,” she tells AdvocateDaily.com.

At issue is the proposed Administrative Monetary Penalty System (AMPS), which would move the process for offences under the Provincial Offences Act, including the Highway Traffic Act, from the courts to an online system.

A group called the Ontario AMPS Opposition Task Force claimed at a Queen’s Park press conference “that anyone issued a ticket for various offences under the Provincial Offences Act would be presumed guilty,” reports the Toronto Star.

The group has described the proposal as an “assault on your constitutional rights,” says the article. 

Attorney General Madeleine Meilleur has said no decision has been made about the proposed online system. She acknowledged that “under AMPS, a person would not be able to appeal to the court but rather a tribunal. She also added that the Supreme Court has ruled that a system like this does not run counter to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as opponents have suggested,” says The Star.

A government spokeswoman has also said that no one will ever go to jail as the result of the AMPS process.

Lippa says that’s not the point. 

She says the government hasn’t provided enough information about how AMPS would be rolled out to determine the repercussions of a guilty finding on one’s driving record and insurance when it comes to Highway Traffic Act offences.

“Are insurance companies going to gain access to your online AMPS activity to assess you for insurance,” she asks. “But we do know that demerit points will be recorded and licence suspensions will still be invoked.”

There are serious implications for the public, she says. 

Lippa notes the attorney general’s reference to the Supreme Court's decision in R. v. Wigglesworth, [1987] 2 SCR 541, and says many AMPS critics aren’t interpreting that decision in the same manner.

“The decision basically says if a jurisdiction turns an offence into an administrative penalty, then there are no Charter penalties, but our argument is that there are because if you turn it into an AMPS, people are essentially found guilty of the offence without a right to an appeal,” she says. “You cannot appeal something that hasn’t had any facts presented. You won’t be permitted to appear before a trier of fact to face your accuser to view the evidence.

“These are fundamental breaches of our rights in Canada.”

Lippa says paralegals, who represent individuals on provincial offences, have become some of the most vocal opponents to AMPS because they understand the impact of a system that no longer gives people the right to appeal or to defend themselves.

She’s concerned that the public will think AMPS is simply an administrative-type of system that makes it easy to pay tickets online and won't carry the same consequences as a conviction under the current system.

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