The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

CBA/ABC National

Real solutions for fixing court delays

December 13 2016 13 December 2016

 

Earlier this month, Ontario’s Attorney General Yasir Naqvi (pictured above) and Quebec’s Justice Minister Stephanie Vallée both announced measures to reduce the seemingly intractable problem of court delays in our justice system, primarily by promising to hire more judges and prosecutors and to inject cash into the justice system.  Nova Scotia appears to be leaning more heavily on restorative justice programs as way of moving offenders charged with less serious crimes away from the court system.

Michael Spratt calls these band-aid solutions. He argues for the government to start reigning in prosecutors:

Any public anger should rightly be directed at the actions of the Crown. And this is where the government’s attention should be focused. A handful of additional judges and prosecutors will do little to change a systemic Crown culture of complacency, possessiveness and overzealousness.

The cure to court delays is simple — there must be a culture change at the upper levels of our Crown attorneys’ offices. Resources must be allocated appropriately and rationally. Minor charges should be diverted. Mental health and addiction issues — the root causes of many offences — should be treated and understood not prosecuted. Reasonableness and efficiency — when called for — should be rewarded.

OBA President David Sterns urges Ontario’s government takes a different tack, calling for a concerted effort to modernize “an outdated court system” with “widely-used and understood technology”:

To be sure, there are many reforms beyond technology that are needed in order to make our courts run more efficiently. For example, many of the procedural rules that govern civil and criminal cases were written for a different era. Changing these rules will require the co-operation of the judiciary, the bar and the government. I know the bar is eager for this dialogue to begin.

But first, let’s pick the low-hanging fruit. Permitting court documents to be filed electronically, allowing online booking of court attendances and using video conferencing for routine court appearances are all incremental steps that our provincial government can take right now. These steps will help modernize Ontario’s courts and strengthen the public’s faith in our justice system.

 

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