Jus­tice sys­tem need so­lu­tions, says critic

The Compass - - OPINION -

Our provin­cial jus­tice sys­tem has been un­der at­tack since March of this year by the very peo­ple des­ig­nated to pro­tect it, the provin­cial govern­ment. Bud­get 2013 axed ser­vices and jobs that were vi­tal in de­liv­er­ing jus­tice to the peo­ple of this prov­ince. Govern­ment has con­tin­u­ally bro­ken their prom­ise to pro­tect front­line ser­vices, and it’s ev­i­dent from de­layed court cases, lack of staffing, and cuts to ba­sic ser­vices that the govern­ment is fail­ing the tax­pay­ers of New­found­land and Labrador.

As part of en­sur­ing ef­fec­tive and ef­fi­cient jus­tice ser­vices, the govern­ment should be con­duct­ing com­pre­hen­sive re­views. In 2006 the govern­ment com­mit­ted to a re­view of pub­lic pros­e­cu­tions, which still hasn’t been com­pleted. Since it was never done, there was no com­pelling ev­i­dence to jus­tify the cuts an­nounced in Bud­get 2013.

Re­cently, the govern­ment promised a re­view for the Le­gal Aid sys­tem and the Sher­iff ’s Of­fice, but the min­is­ter has since re­vealed that there is no plan in place for the re­views and no timeline on when they will start. It’s shock­ing, but not sur­pris­ing that the govern­ment was swift to make a prom­ise, but not so quick on the up­take to make a plan that would see this prom­ise through.

An­other re­sult of this govern­ment’s in­abil­ity to eval­u­ate and man­age the jus­tice sys­tem is the clo­sure of cir­cuit courts across the prov­ince. In the House of Assem­bly it was re­vealed dur­ing dis­cus­sions on bud­get es­ti­mates that the govern­ment will col­lec­tively save $50,000 by clos­ing the cir­cuit courts.

What they didn’t con­sider is the

travel ex­penses, child care, loss of work and other costs that will all come out of the pock­ets of res­i­dents who have a right to ac­cess jus­tice. The elim­i­na­tion of cir­cuit courts in many ar­eas of the prov­ince will de­lay jus­tice for hun­dreds who will have to travel long dis­tances for their day in court.

The govern­ment could have found the $50,000 to save the cir­cuit courts; start­ing with some cost-cut­ting mea­sures at the top se­nior man­age­ment lev­els within Con­fed­er­a­tion Build­ing. The govern­ment’s pri­or­ity should rest with al­low­ing New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans ac­cess to jus­tice, a ba­sic hu­man right.

The govern­ment can­not af­ford to keep mak­ing de­ci­sions with­out proper con­sul­ta­tion and in com­plete dis­re­gard for the im­pact and out­come on the peo­ple of our prov­ince. Ef­fi­ciency means more than just sav­ing money; it also means de­liv­er­ing pro­grams and ser­vices that will pro­duce longterm ben­e­fits.

The govern­ment should con­sult first, eval­u­ate and then make de­ci­sions based on those rec­om­men­da­tions and find­ings. How can we move for­ward with­out know­ing what works and what doesn’t? It’s a dis­ser­vice to the peo­ple of our prov­ince when the govern­ment makes hasty de­ci­sions that af­fect the way jus­tice is de­liv­ered.

I am call­ing on the jus­tice min­is­ter to fol­low through and find so­lu­tions to out­stand­ing is­sues in the jus­tice sys­tem be­cause in their words, jus­tice de­layed is jus­tice de­nied.

— An­drew Par­sons is the Op­po­si­tion Jus­tice Critic and MHA for Bur­geo-La Poile

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