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

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

Kent Harrison Search and Rescue brought a man to safety, and awaiting paramedics, after a 20-foot fall down an embankment on Jan. 23, 2020, on Harrison West Forest Service Road. (Kent Harrison Search and Rescue photo)
Rescue crew lifts man up 20-foot embankment near Harrison Lake

Kent Harrison Search and Rescue says this is the fifth call already this year

A mallard duck swims through Salish Pond in Chilliwack on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
WEATHER: Snow, rain in forecast for Fraser Valley

Fraser Valley has been treated to more than a week of mostly sunny weather, but it’s about to end

sd
VIDEO: Mission drag racer scores 1st career win, sets world record, makes history in 2020

Justin Bond, founder and owner of JBS Equipment, hits milestones in break-out year

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Jan. 24

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

Most Read