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Implement COVID-19 task force recommendations

Changes forced on the justice system by the pandemic must be made sustainable and permanent

Digital Lady Justice

The point of a task force is for its findings to produce positive outcomes. It's why the Access to Justice Subcommittee, Legal Futures Subcommittee and Criminal Justice Section of the Canadian Bar Association are proposing that key recommendations in the 2021 Task Force Report on Justice Issues Arising from COVID-19 be implemented without delay to forge a modern, accessible and user-centred justice system. 

The report’s title, No Turning Back, says it all. Many of the changes forced on the justice system by the urgency of the pandemic in early 2020 need to be made sustainable and permanent. Going back to the way things were before COVID-19 is not an option.

“The resolution is intended to build on that work and to commit the CBA to implement its main recommendations in collaboration with justice partners,” says Jeremy Boulanger-Bonnelly, chair of the Access to Justice Subcommittee. “The pandemic was a shock for the justice system, as it was for society at large, but despite all the challenges we had to face during that time, we hope we can build on it positively to make our justice institutions better and more agile.”

The report’s recommendations build on previous CBA initiatives, including the Reaching Equal Justice Report, the Futures Report, and Resolution 14-09-A, urging legal services providers to use technology to improve access to justice for all. 

The findings are also the product of consultations with various stakeholders, including the Chief Justice of Canada, the chief justices of the Federal Court of Appeal, Federal Court and Tax Court, the Associate Deputy Minister of Justice, law schools, and several CBA committee and Section chairs. 

Since the report’s public release at the 2021 Annual General Meeting, CBA representatives have discussed its recommendations with several groups, including the House of Commons Justice and Human Rights Committee, the Action Committee on Court Operations in Response to COVID-19, the Canadian Council of Chief Judges, the Canadian Council of Administrative Tribunals, and the Alberta Law Foundation. 

Resolution 22-01-A urges “all dispute resolution bodies to permanently implement remote proceedings” for matters best suited to that technology while maintaining in-person procedures where appropriate. The resolution would also have the CBA work with justice system partners to explore online dispute resolution platforms. While the resolution ultimately urges innovation and modernization, it reiterates the importance of establishing robust practices to safeguard personal information and sensitive data and cautions to consider the implications on access to justice for marginalized populations when implementing emerging technologies.  

“The CBA has always been at the forefront of new challenges facing our profession and the justice system,” Boulanger-Bonnelly adds. “The pandemic and the online revolution it brought to our justice system will leave permanent marks, and we have to proactively address the important issues raised by this transition. This resolution calls for the CBA to play a crucial role in that regard by ensuring that we leverage the good practices that emerged during the pandemic while at the same time ensuring that they do not jeopardize access to justice, particularly for marginalized groups.” 

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