Stacy Haner, new Crown Attorney, is formally sworn into her position

Her hand upon a bible, Stacy Haner swore an oath of office before a crowd of well wishers last Friday morning in the Gore Bay courthouse where she presides as the eigth Crown Attorney of the District of Manitoulin. Photo by Alicia McCutcheon

by Alicia McCutcheon

GORE BAY—During a ceremony filled with pomp and circumstance, Manitoulin’s newest, and youngest-ever Crown Attorney Stacy Haner was officially sworn in last Friday morning at the Gore Bay courthouse before an audience of fellow members of the Manitoulin bar, family members and well wishers.

Prior to the ceremony, Ms. Haner could be found loitering at the staircase below, a mix of excitement and nerves in her face. Her mother, Ginnete Stortz, excitedly embraced her daughter as she walked in the doors, gently fixing the tabs of her traditional white collar before she headed
into court.

The order of proceedings the audience received laid out the ceremony, timing it down to the second, but as Ms. Haner stood in her place and waited for official parties to take their various places, she took a moment to turn around, smiling and waving at everyone. “It’s not on the list, but hi!” she grinned.

“All persons having anything to do before the Ontario and Superior Courts of Justice, at the swearing-in ceremony of Stacy Haner as the Crown Attorney for the District of Manitoulin, draw near and give your attendance,” the court clerk announced. “God save the Queen.”

Justices Del Frate and Hennessy took turns wishing Ms. Haner well on her new journey and extended their congratulations to her and to Loraine Ottley, the former Crown who is now enjoying retirement in Little Current.

“Your retirement is well deserved and I can assure that during her tenure, she has performed her duties in an exemplary fashion,” Justice Del Frate said.

“Ms. Haner, becoming the Crown Attorney requires a great responsibility as you will oversee the decisions of the lives of the people of Manitoulin and from my experience, I have no doubt that you have the ability to make these decisions,” the justice continued.

Justice Humphrey noted the large attendance, which, he said, showed the support of the Crown on her new endeavour.

Sheshegwaning First Nation Chief Joe Endanawas was also asked by Ms. Haner to attend the ceremony and to say a few words.

“It was quite a surprise when I got a call from her last week, I thought I was in trouble,” the chief joked.

He noted that he had worked with her for 11 years and congratulated her on her appointment.

“She was always helpful with our program (the United Chiefs and Councils of Manitoulin Justice Project), as was Loraine Ottley,” he added. “It was a big step forward, years ago, when we started the program. There are many things we can improve on, but it’s a work in progress. I want to say congratulations from the Anishinabek on your appointment and I know we will work together for the next few years.”

During the swearing-in, the Crown was asked to read the “order-in-council” with Ms. Haner approaching the lectern at the front of the court, swearing an “oath of office” on the bible. Ms. Haner then signed the oath, followed by Justice Hennessy and Justice Del Frate.

John Luczak, director of Crown Operations, North Region, was the first to speak and gave the audience a brief overview of Ms. Haner’s career to date, noting that she originally hailed from Sault Ste. Marie, received a Bachelor Arts degree from Laurentian University before moving on to Osgoode Hall to receive her law degree. She was called to the bar in 1998.

Ms. Haner began her career in Walkerton with the Attorney General’s Department, Mr. Luczak explained, before moving to Sudbury then on to Manitoulin in 1999.

“She’s a Haweater by marriage,” he said, noting her marriage to Al Haner of Mindemoya and introduced her family members, or “jury.”

“We were going to have the whole family here, but the ministry refused to pay rental on the curling club,” he said to the audience’s delight.

“Crown Attorneys represent the conscience of Canadians and speak for the victims of crime,” the lawyer continued, “and we already know that Stacy is fearless as she runs marathons on the weekend!”

Gore Bay lawyer James Weppler, president of the Manitoulin Bar Association, also addressed the crowd on Ms. Haner’s appointment and gave the crowd a brief history of Crown’s past on Manitoulin, noting that in over 110 years, Ms. Haner is the eighth Crown, the first being Francis Cashman.

“He started his appointment by writing letters to other Crowns, asking what they got for their appointment,” he said, explaining that Mr. Cashman learned he would only be provided with an office, fuel, light, stationary and furniture. “What would have faced the first Crown Attorney?” Mr. Weppler asked. “Many counts of drunkenness, no legal aid and unrepresented Native people who only spoke Ojibwe. We can only imagine the power of the Crown at that point in history.”

He noted the progression of resources for Ms. Haner to work with, but said there was still a long way to go. Mr. Weppler told the audience how only the week before, he had attended the wake of a 27-year-old Wikwemikong woman, a mother of two, who took her own life after her partner was killed in prison.

Upper Canada Law Society bencher and M’Chigeeng lawyer Susan Hare, also took time to speak about the challenging, but fulfilling, role Ms. Haner has embarked on.

“I’m very pleased that Ms. Haner has chosen to include both ‘twilights’ of Manitoulin—for too long First Nations have been left out of important events,” she said.

“Native and non-Native people are trying to respect each other in that larger, legal milieu,” Ms. Hare added. “About half of the population of Manitoulin is Native and too many continue to be sent to jail. Jails are culturally not right for the Ojibwe people.

“All options for First Nations people before jail must be considered,” Ms. Hare added, noting Ms. Haner’s commitment to the law and Manitoulin’s First Nations peoples.

Lawyer, provincial political hopeful, Federal Crown, and Northeast Town mayor Joe Chapman, told the court that “Stacy exemplifies what a lawyer should be,” noting her “strong moral compass” and calling her a “straight shooter.”

“As judges, our work is immeasurably improved when we have good advocates,” Justice Hennessy told the group. “We applaud her skills, clarity and high level of professionalism. When Stacy is in the courtroom, the bar is set just that much higher.”

The justice noted that the Crown has spent years learning the culture and traditions of the Anishinabek people and that Canadian law is “loaded with historical and political baggage” when it comes to First Nations people. She listed Ms. Haner’s four-point vision in regards to dealings with the Anishinabek: recognition, respect, shame, and responsibility. “We of non-First Nations origins have as much to gain,” she continued. “I am confident that Stacy will honour her office in the highest degree.”

Justice Humphrey told Ms. Haner that “the direction of justice in this district will largely be guided by your hand. Our administrative roles will meet from time to time and I trust you will always feel free to bring your thoughts and concerns to my office as my door will always be open.”

Ms. Haner, flushed from the morning’s events, addressed the court before closing the ceremony, and thanked her family for their support. “It starts with your mom and dad doing a lot of good things and soon you’re in the position of doing something special.”

“We are incredibly blessed with a number of hardworking, compassionate people,” she said of her fellow members of the Manitoulin bar. “I couldn’t think of a better team to play on.”

“I hope you don’t all think I did this so you could come here and say nice things about me,” she laughed. She thanked Ms. Ottley for her mentorship, as Ms. Haner was assistant Crown for over 10 years, noting the extra hard work Ms. Ottley put in to make sure the new Crown had a smooth transition, with all the education and experience she needed.

The Crown noted the works of Ms. Ottley’s office that will be continued be her own, including bail estreatment (court determination if sureties—those that sign people out on bail—should pay some or all of the amount that they promised to pay if they did not properly supervise or call in breaches of the people they signed out of jail); and fine enforcement, determining whether a person who did not pay a court ordered fine should spend time in jail or be given more time to pay the fine.

“While Loraine was the Crown, the Manitoulin Crown’s office agreed to pilot a pre-charge screening program,” Ms. Haner told The Expositor. “The police submit briefs before the formal in-court process is commenced by the swearing in of an ‘information.’ The Crown reviews the matter to determine if it can be diverted out of the system pre-charge and if the matter has sufficient evidence to proceed.”

“The Crown gives a legal opinion at this stage, advising police if the contemplated charges are the most appropriate charges and what other steps need to be taken in order for the matter to be put before the court,” the Crown continued. “The program also provides training to the police. The program allows for the Manitoulin Crown’s office to hire an assistant Crown Attorney on a contract basis to allow for this extra work to be done. This position is currently vacant, but it is anticipated to be filled in the next month.”

During her address to the court, Ms. Haner noted an Expositor article given to her to read by Ms. Ottley. It was a 1999 interview with the former Crown.

“I agree with Loraine in her 1999 article when she said that the vast majority of people of the District of Manitoulin are honest, hard-working and law-abiding citizens and that there are no particular problems here that aren’t present in all Northern Ontario communities,” she said. “We (the Crown’s office) will continue to seek justice on behalf of the people of Manitoulin and ensure that people are held accountable for their criminal conduct. We will strive to prosecute firmly and fairly.”

“The next 17 years will be exciting ones,” Ms. Haner continued, noting her work in sentencing principles in regards to Aboriginal people. “I am an advocate for Aboriginal people in this jurisdiction, and other jurisdictions, too.”

Fittingly, the ceremony closed with an honour song by the United Chiefs and Councils of Manitoulin Tribal Police drum group at the foot of the courthouse steps, a tribute to the young woman’s accomplishments with the people of Manitoulin, both past and, undoubtedly, future.