Agenda for Justice 2021: A Roadmap for Action


Agenda for Justice 2021: A Roadmap for Action

It is a true privilege to serve as President during a year when our advocacy culminates in a published document expressing the thought-leadership, hard work, and deep commitment of our Association in advancing the practice of law and the administration of justice. Over 100 CBABC volunteers and staff collaboratively developed Agenda for Justice 2021 (“Agenda”). It is based on extensive research, consultation with industry stakeholders, collective experience, and previous submissions to government. CBABC members have unique insight into the impact our laws have on people. We practise at the forefront of the justice system, providing services to British Columbians in every area of law. Our voice is credible and influential.

In the Agenda, we provide a roadmap for action with over 40 recommendations across 22 key issues in four areas:

  • Access to Justice for Families;
  • Meaningful Change for Indigenous Peoples;
  • Modernizing BC’s Justice and Legal Systems; and
  • Ensuring Fairness for Everyone.

Access to Justice for Families

Most families undergoing a separation or parenting dispute will experience emotional trauma and financial stress. Low-income families in these situations are often unable to access legal advice. If they go to court, they face navigating a complex system with two separate but parallel courts. The child protection system is currently failing children, particularly Indigenous children who are disproportionately impacted by state intervention. We advocate for a sustainable model for Legal Aid; expanded scope for family law services; transformation of the child protection system; and a Unified Family Court.

Meaningful Change for Indigenous Peoples

CBABC is deeply committed to promoting the objectives of reconciliation. Our Indigenous communities require and deserve a unique and collaborative approach to justice that addresses the issues more prevalent within their population. We acknowledge the positive steps of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act and the BC First Nations Justice Strategy, and call for funding and commitment to their implementation. We also advocate for restorative justice, and improving access to lawyers and technology in rural areas.

Modernizing British Columbia’s Justice and Legal Systems

Modernization is a key component of adjusting to and moving beyond the pandemic. We recommend investments in enhanced virtual technology and improved processes in civil court scheduling and filing, court services staffing, and data collection and disclosure. We also discuss the need for streamlined, modernized legislation in the areas of virtual witnessing of legal documents, commercial leases, and enforcement of money judgments.

Ensuring Fairness for Everyone

Core principles of our justice system are equality, inclusion, and protection of human rights for everyone. We advocate for treating our most vulnerable residents, including seniors, the LGBTQ2SI+ community, mental health detainees, vehicle accident victims, and small business owners, among others, fairly and with respect.

What next?

As President, I will be speaking to key cabinet ministers to introduce them to the Agenda and our immediate priorities. The BC government’s priority heading into the spring legislative session is to ensure funding and systems to support the vaccine rollout and to bolster the economy. That should be the priority but that does not mean our government can delay modernization and investment in our legal and justice systems. Decades-long underfunding and understaffing have led to long delays in the administration of justice. These issues were always apparent but a year into the COVID-19 pandemic has made them impossible to ignore. Now is the time to act. We will strive to secure investment in these recommendations and have that reflected in the provincial budget on April 20.

So, how can you help activate the Agenda? Discuss it with your colleagues to raise awareness. I am proud of the tremendous effort our volunteers and staff have put into the focused and concise statements of the true issues facing British Columbians today, and how we can effect positive, substantive changes by following this roadmap for action.