British Columbia Attorney General David Eby listens during a news conference in Vancouver, on Friday May 24, 2019. British Columbia’s attorney general hopes an inquiry into money laundering will answer lingering questions about how the criminal activity flourished in the province and identify specific people who allowed it to happen. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Stronger, more modern B.C. legal system to emerge from COVID pandemic: minister

The groups will address B.C.’s immediate and long-term needs within the justice system

Attorney General David Eby says the COVID-19 pandemic exposed vulnerabilities in British Columbia’s legal system, weaknesses that have forged a unified effort to build a stronger, more modern justice administration.

Most courts in B.C. suspended operations last month due to the threats of the pandemic. Other than hearing emergency matters, the Court of Appeal, provincial and Supreme courts were not sitting, but are now increasingly using technology to hold hearings remotely, Eby said Friday.

“It’s happening in real time and if it weren’t in the middle of a pandemic it would be incredibly exciting, and what it is, is everybody working together out of a sense of urgency and necessity,” he said. “What’s more intriguing to me is there’s an appetite to look if there are different ways we can do things.”

Eby said the Court of Appeal is now preparing to hold hearings by Zoom conference calls and the Cullen Commission public inquiry into money laundering will use Microsoft Team during its proceedings.

“There’s a great appetite for us to be doing things differently and I am hearing it loud and clear from the courts, from lawyers, from people who use the courts,” he said.

READ MORE: B.C. creates advisory groups to look at COVID-19 impacts on justice system

Eby announced the appointment on Friday of two groups of legal organizations and experts to provide the government with advice to keep the justice system rolling throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and afterwards.

The members of more than two dozen groups, including the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police, The B.C. branch of the Canadian Bar Association, the RCMP and the First Nations Justice Council, will advise government on how to respond to urgent and arising issues in the system, he said.

A second group of more than one dozen people, including Beverley McLachlin, the former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, will recommend ways to reduce backlogs during and after the pandemic, said Eby.

“There’s been a fascinating and really important shift in the justice sector as a result of the pandemic,” he said. “A lot of the concerns and fears about the use of technology in courtrooms have made way for a sense of urgency around our need to be able to deliver court services to people.”

Craig Ferris, Law Society of B.C. president, said the groups will address B.C.’s immediate and long-term needs within the justice system.

He said he agreed with Eby’s comments about the pandemic exposing vulnerabilities in the justice system.

“What the crisis has highlighted is there are limits to what is currently available in the courts and the court system and the justice sector,” Ferris said. “As much as everybody’s trying to work hard to get everything working as best we can right now, closing the courts at all shouldn’t happen. We should have a system that is resilient enough that it can handle these types of issues.”

B.C.’s chief provincial court Judge Melissa Gillespie said in a statement last week she anticipates staged approaches to increasing court operations as video and audio conferencing capability grows.

The B.C. Supreme Court said on April 20 it will schedule telephone conference hearings for non-urgent matters that were automatically adjourned when the court suspended operations last month.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nanaimo’s new NightOwls baseball team announces first player signings

Four NCAA Div. 1 players, three of them Canadians, added to roster

Best of the City: Breathe easy

Modo Yoga wins Best Yoga Studio category during challenging time for health and wellness businesses

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Mask rules inconsistent

Letter writer says he won’t pay fine for violating COVID-19 Related Measures Act

Nanaimo school district sees ‘unprecedented’ increase in distance-ed students

School District 68 hires teachers to support distance learning and transition program pupils

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Don’t party in a pandemic

Why are people holding parties when they know it is a health risk, asks letter writer

QUIZ: Do you know what’s on TV?

Fall is normally the time when new television shows are released

Best of the City: This year’s winners

Nanaimo News Bulletin presents full results of our 2020 Best of the City readers’ survey

Canadian ski resorts wrestle with pandemic-vs.-profit dilemma as COVID-19 persists

Few are actually restricting the total number of skiers they allow on the hill

Victoria-area RCMP locate high-risk sex offender thanks to help of taxi cab driver

Scott Jones wanted on a Canada-wide warrant, ‘a risk to women and girls,’ police say

A (virtual) walk around the world by 88-year-old B.C. man

George Doi says it’s simple: ‘I like walking’

End of CERB means uncertainty for some, new system for others

As of a week ago, the CERB had paid out $79.3 billion to 8.8 million people

Horgan, Wilkinson trade barbs over MSP premiums, health care at campaign stops

Horgan called a snap election for Oct. 24 earlier this week

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Best of the City: Greek taverna takes top spot

Asteras in the Old City Quarter chosen Nanaimo’s Best Restaurant Overall

Most Read