Calgary Herald

Justice minister knows judges needed


Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould says she recognizes the “urgency” around the need for more judges to be appointed in Alberta but stopped short of promising immediate action on Monday.

There have been warnings for years that a lack of federally appointed Court of Queen's Bench judges was bogging down the justice system in the province.

Alberta has the fewest Queen's Bench judges per capita of any province or territory in Canada, with QB Chief Justice Neil Wittmann saying last fall the situation had become a “crisis” as some jury trials were being booked into 2017.

Speaking to reporters at the federal Liberal cabinet retreat, Wilson-Raybould said she had recently spoken to Wittmann.

“I recognize the need for judicial appointmen­ts right across the country,” she said. “I recognize the urgency.” The issue is long-standing but the current Liberal government elected last fall has promised to overhaul the appointmen­t process, a new source of delay.

There are currently six vacancies on the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench. There are also four vacancies on the Court of Appeal in the province.

Provincial Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley said in a statement the shortage of judges is causing a challenge and she has raised the issue several times with Wilson-Raybould.

“I will continue to advocate for these vacancies to be filled,” she said.

“New appointmen­ts will help address pressures on the justice system by allowing more cases to be heard in a given day.”

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