Our justice system is in crisis.
Federally, Canada faces a boom in the number of prisoners as the Conservative government’s ‘tough on crime’ sentencing agenda rolls out.
That agenda will cost taxpayers billions as the country expands or upgrades existing facilities and builds new jails to accommodate the influx of inmates.
Provincially, we’re paying the price in a different way, with thousands of cases on the verge of being dismissed – and accused criminals walking away from charges – due to lengthy delays in getting to trial.
Those delays are the result of a chronic shortage of provincial court judges – there are 17 fewer than five years ago, resulting in 900 fewer trial days than in 2005.
The backlog isn’t just a bureaucratic blooper – without more judge appointments (as well as adequate Crown counsel, clerks and court space), justice delayed will inevitably become justice denied. And that amounts to a complete breakdown of our justice system, which operates on the basic tenet of timely access to justice.
With more than 16,000 cases currently before the courts for at least six months and potentially at risk of being dismissed due to the delays, the impact isn’t just accused individuals walking away from what the Crown deemed viable charges.
The impact is also felt, perhaps even more significantly, by the victims of the crimes allegedly committed by those individuals – the victims who never get to see justice served and thus never get closure on that chapter of their lives.
If our society is to be adequately governed by the rule of law, it is incumbent upon our government to ensure there are sufficient resources in place to enforce the law and appropriately serve justice. — Nanaimo Bulletin