Darlene Hayden retiring as long-time Justice of the Peace

Justice of the Peace Darlene Hayden is retiring at the end of December, after a 28 year career on Manitoulin Island.

GORE BAY – While the duties of her job as a Justice of the Peace (JP) have changed considerably over the years, Darlene Hayden has always maintained her philosophy on dealing with people in court.

“I always tried to do my job with care and compassion. I always tried to put myself in the shoes of the person in front of me in court, and how they feel being there,” Ms. Hayden, who is retiring at the end of December, told The Expositor last Friday.

Ms. Hayden has been a Justice of the Peace (JP) for the past 28 years, having started part-time as of September 1, 1993, and then served on the bench since 1995. “When I started, Jack McQuarrie and Sharon Sloss were also part-time JPs.” 

“When I started, there were actually six-seven JPs at the time on Manitoulin Island, and the job was a lot different than it is now,” said Ms. Hayden. Most part-time JPs were court employees or township clerks on the Island and paid fee-for-service in rural areas like Manitoulin. When I started, we would be paid depending on how much work we were doing as a justice of the peace. For example, for swearing an information on a document, a fee of $1.28 was charged and for issuing a subpoena, the pay was 67 cents. The hourly rate for a bail hearing fee for service was $53.80 for the first hour and $21.50 for each hour after in bail court. And we would hold bail court on Monday and Thursdays in Gore Bay, and we were on call 24/7.” This all changed in 1995 when JPs were all paid a salary.

“When I started, I did provincial offences act court, search warrants, mental health applications, private complaints, peace bonds, basically anything that would have to go before a JP. There were lots of duties,” said Ms. Hayden.  

“Yes, the duties of a JP have expanded a lot over the years,” continued Ms.  Hayden. “The case laws became way more complicated. And the use of technology in the last two years, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has advanced the technology 10-15 years. We’re doing some things now that we never did before COVID, some good and some bad.” 

“But, I stuck with it all those years,” pointed out Ms. Hayden. “It’s not a lifestyle job. It is not people that you are judging, it is their behaviour according to the objective standards in law. It’s legislated and driven by case law. And the only powers that you have are granted by legislation. People think a Justice of the Peace has so much power, and can, for instance, look at the loss of points for driving and decided what this should be. But a JP has no jurisdiction for that, this falls totally from the legislation and the Ministry of Transportation.” 

“Over the years, yes, I’ve had some uncomfortable moments in court. About one-third of the people that come before a JP are happy after a decision is made,” said Ms. Hayden. “And the bad part of the job is that, depending on the case, it can be very mentally and emotionally draining.”

As for the difficulty of cases or cases that Ms. Hayden remembers most, “the most hard-fought cases involved when they were going to lose the privilege to own or hunt animals. And most were week-long cases.”

Ms. Hayden stressed, “definitely I would not been have able to do what I have without the court staff we have. They are the best. To me, we have the best court staff in the Northeast region. During the pandemic I could have worked at home, but I went in because I enjoy the work and the congeniality and support of court staff.” 

“My husband (Lee’s) grandmother moved out of her house (in Gordon Township) in 1992,” said Ms. Hayden. “That was the reason we came to Manitoulin Island. We bought Lee’s grandmother’s home and farm. We were in Kincardine and Lee had always wanted to move back to the Island. So, we moved to the Island, and I needed to find somewhere to work. Schools weren’t hiring teachers on a full-time basis. I did supply teach in the public elementary schools at C.C. McLean (Gore Bay), Mindemoya (Central Manitoulin Public School) and Little Current Public School part-time. In February 1993 I saw an advertisement in the local newspaper that requested applications for a worker for the Town of Gore Bay and a Justice of the Peace.”

“I had to come up to the Island in the middle of the winter for an interview. There was a panel of people, including a judge from Toronto, a regional judge from Sudbury, the senior regional justice of the peace and two or three citizens of the area, I remember Mina Turner and Chief Patrick Madahbee were on the interview panel,” continued Ms. Hayden. “I was quite nervous about the interview, but I said ‘let’s see where this takes me,’ and it took me into a career. And, Lee became the dock manager (for Gore Bay).”

“I had a total of three interviews, one on Manitoulin Island and two in Sudbury. By September, I had received the phone call that I had been hired for the Justice of the Peace position.” 

“We raised a small family on the Island (one daughter and one son), who now have little kids of their own,” said Ms. Hayden. “When we were raising our children, Lee helped out a lot, because with my job there were Halloweens that I couldn’t be there to get the kids’ costumes ready and take them out to trick or treat, and there were even Christmas eves when I wouldn’t get home from court in Wiikwemkoong until 7:00 pm and supper would be done.”

While she is going to continue working as a justice of the peace part-time as needed at the courthouse, “one of the things I’m looking forward to is spending more time with my grandkids, gardening, painting, going to the camp and travelling,” added Ms. Hayden.