Canadian Judicial Council reports on its work following its Annual Spring meeting
The Canadian Judicial Council today concluded its annual Spring meeting. All 41 members of the Council met by videoconference over the past three days to discuss a number of issues and initiatives intended to strengthen the administration of justice in Canada.
"While the pandemic has had a marked impact on all sectors of society, the Council has continued to explore ways to be innovative, creative, and to adapt to new challenges" noted the Right Honourable Richard Wagner, Chief Justice of Canada and Chairperson of the Council. "As the Council celebrates 50 years of service to Canadians, we are mindful of the need to continually earn the public’s confidence. All Chief Justices take this commitment seriously and are actively working to improve the administration of justice for the benefit of all Canadians”.
The Council is proud to report the following highlights of its meeting and recent work:
Handbooks for Self-represented Litigants
Council members approved a set of three handbooks to assist litigants who represent themselves in criminal, civil or family matters. The goal is to provide a bilingual, credible, single source, comprehensive, national, electronic source of material and resources for self-represented litigants. The work to publish these Handbooks is underway and Council hopes to launch them in the coming weeks.
Over the past year, the Council has been exploring how best to define the unique relationship that it has with its key stakeholders. There are important areas of convergence where collaboration and cooperation is beneficial. Council members discussed ideas that could eventually form the basis of proposals to the Minister of Justice and to the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs to improve and clarify matters in terms of its governance and independence.
Judicial education is critical to public confidence in the administration of justice. The Council works diligently to ensure that federally appointed judges have access to, and participate in relevant and high quality judicial education programs. The Council recognizes the public’s expectations surrounding judicial education, and in particular, the evolving realities with regard to sexual assault law, unconscious bias and systemic discrimination. It also recognizes the need to balance considerations related to accountability, transparency, and the separation of government and judicial roles.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges for in-person learning, Canadians can be assured that excellent judicial education programming continues to be delivered to judges across the country.
Council reported that from April 1, 2020 to March 10, 2021, 551 complaint-related matters were reviewed. While the majority of complaints are dealt and resolved with in an efficient manner, the Council continues to urge the government to move forward with legislative reform in order to improve the judicial conduct process, and reduce costly proceedings. This was repeated as recently as Chief Justice Wagner’s declaration of February 25, 2021 and in Council’s Open Letter to Canadians.
Revised Ethical Principles
At the meeting, the Council discussed revised Ethical Principles for Judges – an accomplishment that is the culmination of nearly 4 years of work and extensive consultation, including with the public. The Council looks forward to publishing these revised Ethical Principles for Judges in the near future.
Collaboration with the Minister of Justice
The Council was pleased to hear again from the Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. The Minister and Chief Justice Wagner are also Co-Chairs of the Action Committee on Court Operations in response to COVID-19, which provides national guidance to support the restoration and stabilization of court operations throughout Canada in response to COVID-19.
Finally, Council took time to discuss a number of constructive initiatives relating to improving access to justice; ensuring the security of court information; and other projects relating to courts and technology.