Budget 2017: What's in it for justice
The federal budget proposes to spend $55 million over five years to hire new judges, aimed mostly at Alberta and Yukon, to speed up the trial process in Canada.
The prospect that scores of charges being thrown out due to trial delays caused by an over-burdened court system has been top-of-mind since the Supreme Court handed down its ruling last year in R. v. Jordan, setting a ceiling on delays at trial.
In fact, dozens of cases have been stayed, with Crown counsel shouldering the blame for not bringing cases forward fast enough. Lawyers across the country have called for a hike in spending to hire more judges, help legal aid, and streamline the court administration process.
Some money — $2.7 million over five years — is being set aside to fund training and education on the bench as a response to a recent string of much publicized news stories about judges acting inappropriately. The investments will go to the Canadian Judicial Council to support programming that will “ensure that more judges have access to professional development, with a greater focus on gender- and culturally-sensitive training.”
The budget also commits $55.5 million over five years for “community-based programs that use restorative justice approaches as an alternative to the mainstream justice system and corrections.” Indigenous peoples have been vastly over-represented in the criminal justice system for decades.
There’s also $1 million per year, for two years, to expand bilingual access to court services nation-wide.
The budget also sets out somewhat vaguely the government’s intention to “put in place a national strategy to strengthen the transparency of legal persons and legal arrangements and improve the availability of beneficial ownership information.”