|2002/03 Annual Service
Ministry of Attorney General and
Minister Responsible for Treaty Negotiations
The 2002/2003 fiscal year is the second year of a three-year plan
to rationalize the justice system, ensuring that it meets the needs
of all British Columbians, yet remains affordable, accessible and
sustainable. The Treaty Negotiations Office as well has continued
to negotiate treaties in an effort to achieve legal certainty and
strengthen the province's economy.
The ministry has managed many challenges during the past year.
This report demonstrates that large volumes of services were delivered
in all core business areas, within budget, and with most targets
achieved or surpassed. Some examples of specific initiatives are
- Restructured the delivery of court services in the province.
In partnership with municipalities, established 15 new circuit
courts in communities across B.C. to maintain access to justice.
Twenty-four (24) of 68 staffed courthouses were closed in some
locations in order to save court registry and staff costs. Closures
were determined after considering the following criteria.
- Degree of utilization
- Reasonable level of public access
- Cost of future renovations
- Expenditure savings
- Efficiency improvements in courtroom utilization, judicial
scheduling, Crown prosecution and court support
- Opened three new courthouses in the province in Sechelt, Richmond
- Restructured legal aid services in the province. Working with
the Legal Services Society, preserved legal aid programs for those
most in need and emphasized non-court alternatives which are less
adversarial, recognizing the fact that previous legal aid funding
levels were no longer sustainable.
- Implemented new provincial legislation — the Interjurisdictional
Support Orders Act — to improve the way people obtain
or change child and support orders between provinces. The new
legislation replaces the first appearance with an administrative
step, which saves applicants the time and expense of going to
- Implemented a more efficient and accessible human rights model,
which provides a single body — the Human Rights Tribunal
— to handle complaints from start to finish. A new
clinic provides assistance to complainants. Advice is also provided
to respondents. The new model continues to place strong emphasis
on education to foster respect for, and understanding of, human
rights across the province.
- Passed legislation to reform the traffic fine dispute process
by allowing people to dispute fine amounts in writing, and allowing
police evidence to be provided in writing, by phone or by videoconferencing.
This improves access to justice by streamlining the process and
saving time for the public while allowing the police to focus
on protecting public safety.
- Established the Office for Children and Youth to provide specialized
and independent oversight of the services government delivers
to children, to strengthen services for children and youth, and
to avoid duplication and confusion about roles and responsibilities
that formerly existed among government agencies.
- Initiated the process to create a Citizens' Assembly to consider
options for how Members of the Legislative Assembly are elected.
Appointed Gordon Gibson to develop recommendations on how the
Assembly should function and be structured.
- Participated on the Justice Review Task Force, a Law Society
initiative and forum for consultation among the judiciary, legal
profession and the government regarding proposed administrative,
procedural or program changes. As well as releasing a report on
potential justice system reforms (Exploring Fundamental Change:
A Compendium of Justice System Reform1), the Task
Force consulted extensively on the Unified Family Court concept
and began exploring changes to small claims procedure and jurisdiction.
- Launched a review of civil liability laws in B.C. and circulated
a consultation paper and questionnaire to elicit comments from
interested parties and the public. A summary of responses has
been compiled and distributed.
- Commenced a review of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms
in government civil litigation, with a view to enhancing and creating
more systematic opportunities for resolving disputes without recourse
to full trials in court.
- Developed a legal risk management plan to reduce the costs of
litigation and the government's exposure to liability.
- Established a Family Maintenance Enforcement Program website
to improve access to information about resolving family disputes
that involve child custody and access, separation and divorce
- Regarding deregulation, continued to examine substantial law
reform initiatives that ultimately will limit the number of regulatory
requirements and reduce the regulatory burden by the end of fiscal
- Established an Economic Measures Fund to create new opportunities
for First Nations participation in the economy. During the 2002/03
fiscal year, 51 agreements were finalized, totaling $4 million.
- Held the Referendum on Treaty Principles.
- Established clear instructions to provincial negotiators following
the referendum on principles for treaty negotiations.
- Signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the Yale First
Nation, Canada and B.C. to set aside a parcel of land for inclusion
in an eventual treaty settlement.
- Concluded an agreement-in-principle with negotiators for the
Snuneuymuxw First Nation and Canada.