By Shirley Bond
Justice Minister and Attorney General
Over the past year, the B.C. government has paved the way for transforming the justice system into one that is timely, transparent and balanced.
We've appointed nine new judges. We have signed a protocol on projects to reduce court backlog. We have created a structure to allow justice partners to collaboratively work together on the administration of justice.
We've introduced legislation that establishes the foundation for working collaboratively with our justice partners.
It's satisfying to look back at the road we have travelled on the way to modernizing our justice system for British Columbians. Even more exciting is to look at what's ahead.
We are now turning our attention to reforming services for the public so that we may achieve our visionary goals. Recently, we released two reports that will guide our changes into the future. The draft of the B.C. Policing and Community Safety Plan will guide the evolution of policing in B.C., while the second part of the white paper on justice reform, A Timely, Balanced Justice System, presents short- and long-term steps to providing innovative operations and services to the public in all areas of the justice system.
For British Columbians, this means we will focus on early intervention, collaboration, and reform that is responsive to citizen needs and based on evidence of what works.
We will strive to deliver a range of services designed to help people prevent problems, reach early resolutions, and use the court system only when necessary.
Plans outlined in the second part of the white paper include opening a Justice Access Centre in Victoria later this year to build on the success of the 24 Family Justice Centres and the two Justice Access Centres that help British Columbians find solutions to family and civil legal problems.
We'll provide new alternatives to court, which can often be costly, intimidating and lengthy. A Civil Resolution Tribunal with a full array of online tools will assist British Columbians with solving strata and small civil claims.
This tribunal will offer a speedy and cost-effective alternative to court while ensuring a fair process. This move complements recent changes to the Family Law Act that will permit more cases to be resolved by mediation and out of court.
We're committed to working with communities, police and other levels of government to address recommendations made in the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry Report and to implement changes to better protect vulnerable women in our society.
Responding to the report's recommendations, we will determine whether missing persons' legislation should be enhanced in B.C. and oversee the development of a suite of cultural awareness and sensitivity training for police officers.
In addition, we have committed to consider models of policing ranging from further integration to the regional delivery of services while still retaining local community-focused policing.
These are examples of the 33 concrete commitments for change to the administrative, civil, family and criminal justice system in part two of the white paper.
We always said that change wouldn't happen overnight. But we are making significant progress, guided by the action items outlined in the two parts of the white paper on justice reform.
Looking back, and looking to what's ahead, I'm confident that we are on the road to transforming our justice system into one that is more timely, transparent and balanced.