Roundup: A wake-up call on court complacency

The Senate’s legal and constitutional affairs committee released their report on judicial delays yesterday, and while I haven’t made it through the whole report yet, I will say that the highlights are pretty eye-opening.

While you may think that the issue of judicial vacancies is top of mind, it’s actually the culture of complacency that has infected the court system, with inefficient processes, poor case management, an unwillingness by some judges to take their peers to task for granting repeated adjournments, and the list goes on. Yes, judicial vacancies are in there, and this government has excelled in delays for all manner of appointments (witness the backlog of nominations for Officers of Parliament, for example). It’s part of what the Supreme Court of Canada was hoping to get at with the Jordan decision (and may refine that somewhat more with the upcoming decision on Friday), but it’s clear that a lot of processes need to change.

I know there has been some work done, and I’ve written a bit about things like the move to do more summary judgments in some cases rather than going to full trial, and it can work. I just wrote a story last week where it did, and the biggest delay in the case was getting an actual hearing date. But some of the bigger problems remain structural, with things like inadequate mental health services that wind up processing these people through the courts rather than getting them proper treatment, or not having culturally appropriate services for Indigenous offenders which would do more to address their concerns and keep them from recidivism rather than keeping them cycling through the system (or out of jail entirely). Things like legal aid funding are also important to the smooth operation of the system, but one has to wonder if it’s not just giving the court system more resources, but also better drafting laws so that we deal with crime in a better way rather than just trying to look tough on the issues.

Anyway, what I’ve read so far looks good and resonates with what I’ve heard in my own justice reporting, so maybe, just maybe, this government can take some of the recommendations seriously and not just thank them, promise to consult further, and put it on a shelf.

(Incidentally, Christie Blatchford, who covers a lot of trials, is full of praise for the report).

Good reads:

  • The damning indictments about how slow this government is at making appointments mounts with complaints from the former language commissioner.
  • Mary Dawson says that while Harjit Sajjan may have downplayed his role in handling Afghan detainees, it’s not a private interest so she won’t investigate.
  • The motion to split the Infrastructure Bank out of the budget bill in the Senate rests on the Senate Speaker determining whether the motion is in order or not.
  • Other senators are unhappy about the escalating tax rate on beer and wine, because it shields it from accountability in future years.
  • Our ambassador to the US is getting embarrassed at how long the pre-clearance bill is taking to pass.
  • John McCallum says he isn’t hearing any national security chatter around the Norsat sale, and that the stars aligned to make it happen.
  • Manitoba and Saskatchewan aren’t getting any funds to help reduce GHGs because they still haven’t signed onto the federal deal yet.
  • Our Sea King replacement helicopters have been grounded for weeks to deal with a “software glitch” causing them to lose altitude.
  • Charlie Angus is concerned that pipeline politics are consuming too much of the leadership race.
  • Pat Stogran details more reasons why he withdrew from the NDP leadership race, including a “malicious rumour” that was being shopped around.
  • Brad Trost’s campaign manager is pushing back against the Conservative Party for allegations that his team leaked membership lists.
  • Terry Glavin says that to dismiss the government’s feminist foreign aid policy for lack of dollars misses the point of its significance.
  • Colby Cosh writes about the coming demographic crunch of Baby Boomers retiring.
  • Chantal Hébert wonders if Justin Trudeau didn’t take the lessons of Stephen Harper too well, given his backtracking on numerous promises.

Odds and ends:

Senate Clerk Charles Robert has been nominated to permanently replace the Commons Clerk, while everyone expected the Acting Clerk, Marc Bosc, to get the job.