CANADA'S FIRST BAIL PROGRAM

Currently, the Bail Program serves youth (ages 12-15) with support from donations in the community and adults over the age of 16 with funding from the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General. These two programs stem from the early 1970s when Young People in Legal Difficulty was launched in Kitchener-Waterloo for youth aged 12-25.

This important event in Canadian community justice was brought about by the inspiration and tenacity of one of its senior citizens, Margaret Day. Margaret had spent 2 days in detention for refusing, on principle, to pay a traffic ticket. While in custody, she discovered a number of youth with few connections in the community who were being held for weeks and months pending trial for relatively minor offences.

Upon her release she determined to do something to right this injustice. Her solution was to offer bail supervision to the Kitchener court as an alternative form of release as well as establishing a bail hostel in Waterloo. This original program ran into all the problems - financial, jurisdictional, personal, and political - which often accompany pioneering efforts. These eventually led to its demise in 1975/6.

Out of the ashes, former colleagues and staff of the original program created a new community organization in 1976 called Youth in Conflict with the Law, continuing to offer bail supervision to youth. This program was maintained by charitable donations and occasional government grants until 1979. At that point, the program was offered the opportunity to participate in a pilot project sponsored by the provincial Ministry of Corrections. It built on the experience gained in Kitchener-Waterloo, extended to adults of all ages, and expanded to programs in Hamilton, St. Catharines, and Toronto.

Some current board and staff members were part of Margaret Day's bold innovation. They have seen the programs grow from a total caseload of 20-40 in any given month in 1979 to just over 200 today with most funding now coming from the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General. During that time, the programs also expanded to include an office in Cambridge to better serve clients from across the Waterloo Region. Today, the programs are operated under the banner of Community Resources for People in Conflict with the Law, a non-profit charitable organization incorporated in 2002.