Canada's Chief and Associate Chief Justices Committed to the Administration of Justice
Amid the global uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, Canada’s Chief and Associate Chief Justices met by teleconference yesterday, as the Canadian Judicial Council, to discuss urgent and pressing issues. This was in lieu of the annual in-person Council meeting and heralds an approach of greater reliance on technology as an effective means to collaborate during this difficult time.
As Chair, the Chief Justice of Canada, the Right Honourable Richard Wagner, began the teleconference with a discussion on the impacts that COVID-19 is having on Canadians and the unprecedented steps respective courts have taken to balance protection of the public while ensuring that justice is administered effectively under the open court principle. "All levels of court have moved to put the protection of the public`s health first and foremost", said Chief Justice Wagner. "Canadians can have confidence that the justice system is here for you and your judges continue to manage the work of the courts effectively, yet safely". (See Council message for reference.)
Council members agreed on the importance of ensuring that the public has access to the Courts during this extraordinary period. Given the serious health risks associated with in-person hearings, there was broad support for the need to proactively explore making greater use of teleconference and video-conference hearings. It was recognized that this would require increased governmental investments in digital technologies, including e-filing. More generally, Council underscored the need for all courts to continue to share and assess lessons learned during the COVID-19 crisis to date and to continue to provide flexibility regarding rules of procedure and conventional practices, while always respecting the Rule of Law.
Under the leadership of the Chief Justice, the Canadian Judicial Council recently embarked on an exercise of renewal in order to meet the evolving expectations of Canadians. This work will continue despite the current challenges.
As the institution that champions judicial education, the Council also discussed novel ways to address risks, ensure sustainability and allow its main delivery partner, the National Judicial Institute, to build capacity and anticipate judicial professional development needs. Council agreed that investments need to be made to ensure sexual assault training is offered to provincial and territorial court judges.
Council members heard from the Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, who reaffirmed his commitment to work with Chief Justices on joint projects with the goal of enhancing public confidence. Specifically, the Minister underscored his commitment to legislative reforms to the judicial conduct process and to work on a new governance model for Council.
Finally, further to its undertaking to be more open and transparent, Council directed that a Report to Canadians on key activities be published. As you will see in the Report, Canada’s Chief and Associate Chief Justices on the Canadian Judicial Council, continue to work for all Canadians to ensure the fair and efficient administration of justice.
Johanna Laporte, Director of Communications
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