Government Consultation and Collaboration Falls Short When it Comes to Improving Justice

  • May 08, 2012

VANCOUVER, BC – In response to the BC Government's announcement of Bill 44 -- the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act -- the Canadian Bar Association, BC Branch (CBABC) questions the commitment of Attorney General Shirley Bond and Premier Christy Clark to collaborate with justice system partners involved in the urgent task of responding to the crisis in BC's justice system.

Through Bill 44, the government will establish a potentially costly parallel system to the courts, rather than putting necessary resources into the provincial court system that already exists to provide simple, effective resolution of small claims. "Properly funded, an effective process for the resolution of these disputes already exists in our courts", stated Sharon Matthews, president of the CBABC. "The expertise to adjudicate civil disputes is available through independent and impartial judges who are assisting members of the public every day, many of whom are appearing without legal representation. The backlogs are due to the fact that the court system has been starved of government resources for far too long, and diverting resources to a civil claims tribunal may exacerbate that problem."

That issue, and many others raised by the draft legislation, are the reasons why the CBABC sought out the ability to consult and collaborate on civil justice system reform issues identified in the government's recent Green Paper. Instead of collaboration and consultation, the government simply introduced the legislation.

In announcing the government's Green Paper and Justice Reform Review on February 8, Minister Bond had this to say: “Government is one element of a system of interconnected and largely independent players. I know that, by working together, we can ensure the justice system is more transparent, more accessible and more responsive for British Columbians.” The CBABC has repeatedly offered to participate fully in the government's justice reform agenda, and CBABC members throughout the province have sought to meet with MLAs, the Attorney General and Geoffrey Cowper, QC as part of the Green Paper consultation and Justice Reform initiatives. "The government's announcement of Bill 44 without discussion with key stakeholders is obviously damaging to the broader justice reform process," said Ms Matthews.

"The Government has publicly declared its intent to "consult" and involve justice system partners and the public in coming up with solutions to the current justice system crisis. It therefore comes as quite a surprise when major changes are announced without consultation and while the government's own Justice Review is underway," said Ms Matthews. "It is difficult to have confidence in this government's commitment to work with others to find lasting solutions and improve the justice system."

Download a PDF copy of the official CBABC news release.

Click here to view the BC government release.


For more information contact:

Maureen Cameron, Director of Membership, Volunteer and Public Affairs at 604.646.7850 or The Canadian Bar Association is the professional organization representing more than 38,000 lawyers, judges and law students in Canada, including 6,700 members in British Columbia.