Justice System Reform and Community Safety Plan Under Consideration

The Province has released the second part of its paper regarding justice system reform, titled White Paper on Justice Reform, Part Two: A Timely and Balanced Justice System.  The paper proposes the expansion of Justice Access Centres, which provide a single point of entry for family and civil justice services.  The goal is to use technology to expand these services to rural and remote communities many of which do not have access to the justice system today.

The paper also proposes a system of administrative courts to handle minor civil and administrative disputes.  Civil Resolution Tribunals would be available online or by email, telephone, and video – where necessary, in person hearings could be held.  As a part of this process, traffic disputes would be handled by administrative tribunals rather than traffic courts, and would no longer require the participation of police officers.  These changes would result in cost savings to local government and allow them to deploy police resources more effectively.

In addition to the white paper, the Province released a “BC Policing and Community Safety Plan” for consultation, with the intention of finalizing a plan by March 2015.  The plan proposes to consult with local government “to define and clarify policing responsibilities at the federal, provincial and municipal government levels; consider different models of service delivery ranging from further integration to regional delivery of services; and develop options for funding models”.  In addition, the plan proposes that the Province examine the following measures that are of interest to local government:

  • New categories of law enforcement personnel (e.g. special provincial constables, auxiliaries, by-law officers, private security);
  • Changes to the service delivery framework for policing First Nations;
  • Development of policing standards to ensure ongoing opportunities for community members and stakeholders to provide input about policing and law enforcement in their communities;
  • Review and improvement of police board structure, function and training;
  • Development of strategies to support crime prevention and crime reduction initiatives; and
  • New anti-gang enforcement initiatives.

Overall, the measures outlined in the white paper and the proposed community safety plan address a number of concerns identified by local government.  The proposals, if implemented, would give local citizens increased access to the justice system and help contain local government policing costs.

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