Advocacy in Action | October 2022


October 2022

Advocacy in Action | October 2022

Seeking Modernization

CBABC members have spoken clearly and loudly in response to the Supreme Court of British Columbia’s announcement that regular Chambers would return to in-person proceedings on August 15, 2022.

Over 280 of you participated in the ThoughtExchange where you were asked to share your views on the return to in-person Chambers. One of the most highly rated thought was this:

Attendance by Teams reduces time and financial barriers to access and contributes to mitigating climate change. Self-represented litigants don’t have to travel and take as much time off work to access the courts. It also reduces everyone’s carbon footprints.

Overwhelmingly, the participants expressed disappointment with the reversion to pre-pandemic practices that have the effect of reducing access to justice. That impact on access to justice was expressed in terms of increased expense, wasting of time, limiting on access by those with differing abilities, limiting lawyer availability to assist more clients, and disadvantaging those in smaller and Indigenous communities. This is what you said.

Then-President Clare Jennings and Executive Director Kerry Simmons, KC met with Chief Justice Hinkson in July to bring these concerns to his attention. As a result of that conversation, CBABC’s Court Services Committee is finalizing a detailed Submission to the Supreme Court outlining in detail why short, straightforward Chambers matters ought to be heard virtually by default, not upon application (another cost) which may be denied for reasons that do not accord with increasing access to justice. The Submission will also address some of the expressed reasons why the choice was made to return to in-person. CBABC’s Submissions will also be shared with the Ministry of Attorney General, in particularly the Court Services Branch, who have been working on modernization infrastructure supports such as the Masters Chambers Records Digitization Pilot Project for hearings on Vancouver Island.

Some of the members participating in the ThoughtExchange welcomed the return to in-person proceedings citing the increased collegiality among counsel at the courthouse, more comfort to engage with the judge, and being able to hand up materials at the last minute. A few noted that there needs to be consistency in the video platform for virtual hearings to be effective. These factors will be addressed in the CBABC Submission.

In “No Turning Back: CBA Task Force Report on Justice Issues Arising from COVID-19” the judges and lawyers involved clearly recommended that all dispute resolution bodies should permanently implement measures to improve access to justice, modernize and address the long-standing challenges in the justice system by providing virtual proceedings for procedural, uncontested, shorter, and less complex matters.

CBABC will continue to seek modernization of the justice system, advocate for funding for infrastructure and training to support that modernization, and continue to bring the experience of members to the attention of decision-makers.