Ministry 2002/03 Annual Service Plan Report -- Government of British Columbia.
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2002/03 Annual Service Plan Report
Ministry of Attorney General and
Minister Responsible for Treaty Negotiations

Year-at-a-Glance Highlights

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 summarized below.

  • 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 and Chilliwack.
  • 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 court.
  • 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 issues.
  • 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 year 2004/2005.
  • 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.

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