Service Plan Report
Ministry of Attorney General and
Minister Responsible for Treaty Negotiations
Ministry Role and Services
The Ministry of Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Treaty
Negotiations has overall responsibility for the administration of
justice in British Columbia, as well as for the negotiation and
implementation of treaties and other agreements with First Nations.
The Attorney General has a constitutional and statutory role as
the government's lawyer, providing legal advice, representing the
government in litigation and drafting legislation.
Four main branches of the ministry work together to fulfill the
justice mandate. Several of the ministry's core business areas,
which are described in a later section, are comprised of related
programs and services provided by these four main branches.
Court Services Branch offers administrative, security and
enforcement services to support the independent judiciary and the
operation of three separate levels of courts over which the judiciary
presides — the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court and the
Legal Services Branch provides advice to ministries and
Cabinet, drafts legislation and represents the government in court
and before administrative tribunals.
Criminal Justice Branch prosecutes offences under the Criminal
Code of Canada, the Young Offenders Act and offences arising
from violations of provincial statutes.
Justice Services Branch manages provincial funding of legal
aid and is responsible for a range of civil and family law programs
and services including dispute resolution and enforcement of court
A fifth area of the ministry, the Treaty Negotiations Office, negotiates
agreements with First Nations in an effort to achieve legal
certainty and strengthen the province's economy.
Concordance with the Government Strategic Plan
The Government Strategic Plan provides a broad framework within
which individual ministries pursue their goals. Government's vision
for British Columbia is of a prosperous and just province, whose
citizens achieve their potential and have confidence in the future.
One of the three goals in the government plan calls for a strong
and vibrant provincial economy. The Ministry of Attorney General
through the Treaty Negotiations Office is charged with concluding
treaty and other economic-related agreements with First Nations
that promote investment certainty and increase access to Crown lands
Another goal in the government plan calls for a supportive social
infrastructure, part of which is a justice system that is accessible,
efficient, fair and affordable. A third government goal speaks to
safe, healthy communities and individual well-being. All of these
concepts are fundamental to operations within the ministry's core
business areas. As well, the ministry's guiding principles, as described
below, support government's vision for the province and are based
on values that reflect and affirm those in the Government Strategic
Ministry Vision, Mission and Values
An accessible, responsive, accountable justice system that protects
the rights of all citizens, offers a range of affordable, timely
and fair ways to resolve disputes, and fosters confidence in the
integrity, efficiency and effectiveness of the justice system. The
knowledge that government operates lawfully and is achieving reconciliation
with First Nations through negotiation contributes to the social
stability and economic vitality of British Columbia.
To promote the safety and security of communities (in cooperation
with the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General); administer
an independent, impartial and accessible justice system; facilitate
the timely, fair and lasting resolution of civil legal disputes
(including family); provide high-quality legal services to government;
and, through negotiation, achieve reconciliation with the First
Nations of British Columbia and legal certainty over the ownership
and use of Crown land and resources in British Columbia.
The Ministry of Attorney General shares with all government organizations
a commitment to affordability, efficiency, timeliness, accountability,
innovation and reform, and a healthy, supportive workplace. In addition,
the Ministry strives to deliver its unique services in accordance
with these values.
- Impartiality and fairness
- Processes that are appropriate to the nature of the dispute
- Respect for the law
A number of factors, both external and internal to the ministry,
can affect its ability to realize its goals and objectives and meet
its annual targets. Ministry planning as well can be shaped to a
considerable degree by these factors. Among the most significant
factors that the ministry monitors on a regular basis are the following.
Crime rates relate to expected workloads for many areas of the
justice system such as police, the courts, Crown prosecutors, and
corrections. Canada's crime rate increased slightly (by 1%) in 2001
after several years of decline. Similarly, British Columbia's overall
crime rate rose by 1% in 2001 after a five-year decline, largely
as a result of a sharp increase in auto thefts.2 In 2002,
the B.C. crime rate again increased slightly, by another 1%. Relative
to the national average, B.C. continues to have a high crime rate.
Our rate is second highest among provinces, after Saskatchewan.3
B.C.'s violent crime rate has been decreasing over the last several
years, although it is still 10% higher than it was 20 years ago.4
For 2002, the B.C. violent crime rate fell by another 1%.
Many environmental factors contribute to variations in the crime
rate, including changes to the laws that affect police enforcement
practices, differences in community reporting conventions, fluctuations
in the economy, and changes in population density. One theory for
the observed decline in the overall crime rate for several years
prior to 2001 is that there has been a corresponding drop in the
proportion of young males aged 15 to 24 in the population. Historically,
crime rates have been higher in this group than in other population
Crime rates and subsequent police enforcement practices drive workloads
within much of the Ministry of Attorney General. When rates increase,
workloads grow. Workloads also can increase depending on the type
and complexity of cases that proceed to court.
The majority of Criminal Code prosecutions are a provincial
responsibility. Prosecutions are becoming increasingly complex,
requiring analysis of large volumes of technical evidence and the
use of expert witnesses. There are some very large cases, such as
the Air India and Vancouver missing-women prosecutions. Cyber crime
is expected to introduce additional litigation challenges. As cases
continue to grow in complexity, prosecution costs to the province
are likely to increase as well.
The province is also required to respond to increasing complexity
in civil law suits. Its jurisdiction over land and resource
management involves the province in an increasing number of cases
arising from conflicting claims to the land and resource base of
British Columbia. In particular, British Columbia is dealing with
a large number of aboriginal rights and title cases that are raising
important issues. As well, the province is a defendant in major
class action claims, including claims arising out of allegations
of historic abuse in institutions that were administered or funded
by the province. These cases may present litigation management challenges
and significantly increased costs to the province because of the
large numbers of complex legal issues, substantial volumes of evidence,
multiple parties, and novel issues of law and procedure that are
The complexity of civil litigation often makes court proceedings
more costly for members of the public. In response to this, there
appears to be a growing trend towards litigants appearing without
counsel. This has several consequences for the civil justice system.
It means that trials and hearings proceed more slowly as unrepresented
litigants struggle to deal with court rules and procedures. These
cases often result in more adjournments and, in addition to being
more frustrating for the litigants, require more time and court
resources to complete.
The ministry is attempting to address the issues of case complexity
and affordability by working with the judiciary, the bar and its
other partners in the justice system to streamline and simplify
procedures and, wherever it is appropriate, to develop faster, less
expensive alternatives to litigation.
Changes in family structure and dynamics are resulting in a greater
demand for family court resources, mediation, parenting education
programs and child maintenance enforcement. Family law (divorce,
child custody, access, support and protection) has had to evolve
rapidly to keep up with these changes. In response, the ministry
has implemented a number of measures including mandatory referrals
to Family Justice Counsellors regarding custody, access, guardianship,
or child/spousal support.
The ministry is also piloting several projects to test new case
management systems. These pilots will address many of the current
challenges in family law by examining potential remedial strategies
- maintenance enforcement outreach services to divert cases from
- limited legal advice for self-represented litigants to assist
in achieving settlements;
- administrative enforcement mechanisms to support the recently
proclaimed Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act;
- administrative calculation and variation of child support orders;
- parent education programs to encourage alternatives to litigation.
Criminal court backlogs have been reduced from their peak in the
late 1990s. Today there are fewer cases pending and their age in
the system has decreased. Several factors may be contributing to
this change: additional judges have been provided to hear cases;
the judiciary, working with the ministry, has improved the rules
for case flow management; and some low-risk cases are being diverted
from the conventional court process into alternative measures programs.
However, the number of new cases entering the system has not decreased,
and backlogs continue to be a concern.
British Columbia's population is growing and is becoming more diverse.
It includes an increasing number of international immigrants who
frequently require language services and who may be unfamiliar with
the principles and processes of the justice system. In those cases,
additional specialized justice services are called for to ensure
access and fairness.
The number of new criminal cases involving youth between the ages
of 12 and 17 has been declining in B.C. since 1992.5
However, the implementation of the new national Youth Criminal
Justice Act will bring new procedural and systemic challenges.
Aboriginal People in the Justice System
Aboriginal people in British Columbia continue to be significantly
over-represented in all aspects of the justice system as both offenders
and victims. A large youth population and difficult social conditions
in many aboriginal communities contribute to this situation.
Unresolved aboriginal claims have created economic uncertainty
over the ownership and use of Crown land and resources. Treaty negotiations
aim to address these uncertainties by establishing agreements that
can enhance economic stability and opportunity in British Columbia.
Linking of Justice Data Systems
There is a need to continue linking information systems across
separate components of the justice system so that accurate, critical
information can be made available to all justice partners. British
Columbia has made significant progress in this area and continues
to improve existing data systems and create new secure links, particularly
among police, Crown, courts and corrections. Better information
contributes to better planning and can make justice administration
and law enforcement more effective.
Strategic Shifts and Significant Changes in Policy Direction
Following the 2001 core review of ministry programs and services,
four key attributes emerged as fundamental to the province's justice
system. As government began planning to modify some justice services
after the core review, these attributes helped shape the proposed
Accessibility: British Columbia is a diverse province with
a diverse population. The justice system must continue to be accessible
to all people in the province, regardless of where they live or
what their personal circumstances may be.
Efficiency: The justice system must be efficient. Trials
must take place within a reasonable time and courtrooms must operate
in a way that makes the best use of resources.
Fairness: As part of its responsibility to protect citizens
and maintain order and public safety, the justice system must continue
to apply the rules of law fairly and equally.
Affordability: The justice system must be affordable to
all citizens who use it. The costs to government and litigants must
Proposed changes to the justice system were also viewed in light
of the unique challenges and pressures that confront the system.
Laws have become more complex, resulting in intricate legal processes.
Complicated cases take longer to prosecute, and prosecutions costs
have risen. The cost of staffing and maintaining courthouses has
risen as well.
Administrative systems that once were adequate have become outdated
and less efficient at accommodating the demands of a more complex
justice system. Addressing this growing technological gap could
require considerable costs for updates and new development.
Unresolved aboriginal claims have created economic and legal uncertainties.
As well, litigation against government has increased, and courts
have been issuing higher awards.
Challenged by affordability and the need to maintain the core values
of the justice system in light of growing pressures, the ministry
undertook a number of strategic shifts and based them on four key
Find alternatives to litigation: More and more Canadians
are unable to use the justice system to resolve civil disputes because
it is simply too expensive. Litigating a small claim, for example,
could cost more than the claim is worth. Many reports from across
Canada and around the world have found that increasing the use of
consensual dispute resolution processes, such as mediation, holds
the greatest promise for increasing access to justice.
Similarly, in the family area, it has been recognized for many
years that the courts are often the wrong forum for resolving the
emotionally charged issues facing families going through separation
The Dispute Resolution Office (DRO) in the ministry's Justice Services
Branch was established to work within the justice system to support
the use of a wide range of dispute resolution options within the
civil and family justice system. Through the DRO, the ministry continues
to support the development of processes and programs that will provide
people with alternatives to litigation. The ministry also continues
to support the development of a strong pool of highly qualified
mediators in the province to meet the growing public demand.
In the area of criminal law, the ministry strengthened its efforts
to screen cases rigorously and divert low-risk offenders to out-of-court
processes such as community-based alternative measures programs.
Programs like these do hold offenders accountable for their actions,
but they also help to avoid costs that would otherwise be incurred
by the formal justice system.
Improve liability management: To address this strategy,
the ministry began to develop improved, proactive risk management
procedures both within and outside the ministry. One new procedure
involved a review of existing and new legislation in an accelerated
effort to avoid litigation wherever possible. The ministry also
made a significant shift toward a new model of cost accountability,
where ministries responsible for lawsuits against government are
also accountable for the costs. Such a shift encourages all ministries
to share in the responsibility for managing risk and to work together
to avoid unnecessary exposure to litigation and civil liability.
Strengthen partnerships across the justice system: An effective,
efficient justice system requires the cooperation and expertise
of its key partners: the legal profession, police, Crown counsel,
and federal and municipal governments. The independent judiciary
is also involved.
The ministry has renewed its commitment to improve the system through
stronger partnerships. For example, the ministry has been working
closely with the independent judiciary to improve court scheduling
and make better use of police and Crown counsel time. In consultation
with police and Crown counsel, the ministry has focused on enhancing
the charge approval process, especially regarding the diversion
of less serious offenders to cost-efficient out-of-court alternatives.
Streamlining and simplifying the process for dealing with traffic
offences was another joint effort with police and Crown.
Municipal bylaws have traditionally been enforced in provincial
court. In consultation with municipalities, the ministry has moved
toward increasing the capacity of municipalities to enforce their
own bylaws in a way that is less expensive than provincial court
and more responsive to municipal needs.
Reform practices and programs: This strategy involved several
prominent shifts directed at bringing greater effectiveness and
efficiency to the justice system. For example, the ministry reviewed
its costly infrastructure requirements and closed courthouses that
were not considered efficient operations. Several less costly circuit
courts were established to continue services in those areas where
courthouses had been closed.
The ministry committed to installing more video conferencing units
that would allow witnesses and accused to testify without incurring
travel costs. The ministry began work on electronic filing of civil
documents as another efficiency measure that could also cut costs.
There were significant shifts made in the way treaties with First
Nations were negotiated. The Treaty Negotiations Office of the ministry
focused its resources on opportunities to reach successes at tables
with First Nations and Canada. Consistent with the principles endorsed
through the referendum, there were also significant policy shifts
with respect to reconciliation, certainty, self-government models,
revenue sharing and accommodation in order to revitalize treaty
negotiations and accelerate the conclusion of agreements.
In a major review of the province's administrative justice agencies,
the ministry sought assurance that agencies were meeting the needs
of the clients and communities they were serving, that their mandates
were current and relevant, and that their operations were efficient,
open and accountable. Recommendations from the review suggested
that some overlapping services and jurisdictions be eliminated,
and many other administrative procedures be streamlined. The ministry
has established an Administrative Justice Office to ensure that
these modifications and other appropriate efficiencies continue
to be implemented.
Update on New Era Commitments
In addition to the strategic shifts that emerged from the core
review of programs and services, the ministry also undertook a number
of New Era projects and commitments that had been assigned
by the Premier's Office. Many of the following commitments were
completed as of March 31, 2003, a few remain and will be completed
by May 17, 2005, and still others are ongoing with no specific end
date because they are basic tenets of the ministry mandate.
Completed Key Projects
Completed New Era Commitments
Continued New Era Commitments
Ongoing New Era Commitments —
Part of Ministry Mandate
Core Business Areas
This section of the Annual Report provides a brief description
of the ministry's core business areas as they were during fiscal
year 2002/2003. The description for each business area covers purpose,
participant branches, programs and services, service delivery mode,
principal clients, intended benefits to clients, and a few of the
considerations that can affect service delivery.
The Service Plan for 2002/2003 included nine core business areas
that had been configured during the 2001/2002 transition year. Several
of these business areas incorporated complementary programs and
services from more than one ministry branch. Other business areas
were the responsibility of single branches. The table below summarizes
the business areas for the fiscal year 2002/2003 and the branches
that were involved in each of them.
Ministry of Attorney General Core Business
Areas — 2002/2003
Community and Public Safety
Three branches of the ministry — Court Services, Criminal
Justice, and Justice Services — contribute to the safety of
communities and the general public in different ways.
- The Court Services Branch supports timely and equitable
access to the Provincial Court, Supreme Court and Court of Appeal.
It provides administrative services to the independent judiciary,
registry and trial support, prisoner custody and escort, and courthouse
security. It also maintains the facilities in which court is held.
These services, which are directly delivered by branch and
ministry staff, enable the courts to operate safely and efficiently.
They contribute to an independent, impartial and accessible
justice system that serves the province's citizens — and
specifically, parties in litigation, counsel, the judiciary,
registry staff, police, public interest and volunteer groups,
other ministries, and other governments such as municipal, aboriginal,
Addressing and resolving criminal cases in the courts involves
almost 105,000 sitting hours, which represents almost sixty
per cent of the total combined sitting hours for all levels
- The Criminal Justice Branch contributes to public safety
through the prosecution of Criminal Code and provincial
statute offences. Services include assessing and approving criminal
charges, referring low-risk offenders to alternative measures
programs, identifying high-risk and violent offenders for specific
attention, prosecuting cases, handling appeals and providing advice
to government on all criminal law matters. These responsibilities
are governed by the Crown Counsel Act and must be carried
out objectively and fairly, without regard to undue influence
or interference from any source.
Victims, witnesses, the general public and justice partners
(police and other investigating agencies, courts, corrections
and government) benefit in many ways from these services. The
charge assessment process and assessment criteria ensure that
the cases which are approved to court are sufficiently supported
by the anticipated admissible evidence, and that prosecution
will be in the public interest. After assessment, some cases
are referred to alternative measures programs, and some that
do not warrant charges are not approved to court or are referred
back to the police for investigation. This contributes to efficiency
as those accused persons who can be adequately dealt with by
a referral to an out-of-court alternative measures program are
not brought into the court system, and those accused persons
who present a high risk of violence are identified early in
the process. Cases that do not meet the evidentiary or public
interest criteria are not placed before the court. The charge
assessment process can reduce the potential for civil suits.
High-risk offenders are identified for appropriate action by
the courts, contributing to public safety. Prosecutorial services
and advice in criminal matters are offered with careful attention
to timely processing, contributing to cost reduction.
- The Justice Services Branch supports the provision of
legal aid by the Legal Services Society by managing the broad
policy and funding context of legal aid. The Society allocates
to eligible individuals who cannot afford legal counsel, legal
aid resources proportional to the complexity and seriousness of
the offence. The principal responsibilities of this branch lie
within other core business areas and are described there.
Workloads and service delivery in this core business area can be
affected by several factors discussed previously under Operating
Context. If, for example, the crime rate, litigation complexity
or court backlogs should increase, workload would also increase,
service delivery could become less efficient, and costs would likely
rise. This is especially true if extraordinary cases should become
more frequent. The implementation of new laws, such as the new national
Youth Criminal Justice Act, often requires new and additional
procedures that can also increase workloads and affect efficiency.
Since maintaining service delivery levels is a priority, the ministry
addresses these and other more catastrophic risks, such as the loss
of facilities due to earthquake, fire, or explosion, through risk
management and business continuation planning.
Expenditures for Community and Public Safety
Social and Economic Stability
Society requires timely, effective resolution of civil and family
disputes, and this fosters social and economic stability. Many civil
and family cases require courtroom procedures to reach resolution;
Court Services Branch supports the judiciary in addressing these
cases. Some civil and family disputes can be resolved out of court;
Justice Services Branch offers or funds a range of services and
information as well as out-of-court dispute resolution options for
those who wish a less adversarial approach.
- The Justice Services Branch promotes access to justice
services such as legal aid and offers alternatives to courtroom
litigation that emphasize choice, relevancy, affordability and
accessibility. Free mediation for disputants in civil cases is
available in Provincial Small Claims Court through the Court Mediation
Program. In Supreme Court, a disputing party can use the Notice
to Mediate Program to compel the other party(ies) to attend one
Three other programs are available to families (parents, children,
other family members) in dispute. The Parenting after Separation
Program is a three-hour free information session that is now
mandatory at some court registries. The session helps parents
make informed choices about separation and conflict and take
into account the best interests of their children.
The Facilitated Planning Meeting Program is intended to help
families reach early resolution of child protection issues.
The Family Justice Dispute Resolution Program guides parents
and children through the process of separation and divorce and
helps families address issues such as child custody, access
Most of the services, apart from legal aid, are provided by
ministry employees and, to a much lesser extent, through independent
contractors. Volunteer boards operate some programs. Offering
disputants in both civil and family cases a range of out-of-court
options creates significant efficiencies in the justice system
and reserves the resource-intensive court process for those
cases that need it most. Dispute resolution processes benefit
disputants by allowing all parties to be engaged actively in
creating enduring agreements designed to meet their needs and
personal circumstances, rather than having resolution imposed
by the court. Clients for dispute resolution services can range
from individuals to families, government ministries and agencies,
and aboriginal treaty tables.
Several factors influence the ministry's ability to reach certain
intended targets for this core business area. Maintaining court
services is a priority for this business area. The ministry addresses
risks, such as the loss of facilities, through risk management and
business continuation planning.
Some civil and family cases are more difficult to resolve than
are others, depending on the individual circumstances or nature
of a case. If the proportion of difficult cases is high in a given
year, the settlement rate for that year may be lower than the rate
for a year that had a high proportion of cases that were easily
and quickly resolved.
The roster of mediators can fluctuate from year to year, with some
years having an influx of newly trained, but inexperienced mediators,
coupled with an outflow of experienced mediators. Inexperienced
mediators often have a lower settlement rate than do experienced
ones. A reduction in the proportion of experienced mediators on
the roster may also temporarily reduce access to out-of-court options.
During economically difficult times, disputants may feel additional
financial and emotional pressures. Consequently, they are often
not as inclined to negotiate and compromise as they are when the
economy is strong and they are less pressured.
Expenditures for Social and Economic Stability
Through the Legal Services Branch, this business area employs
in-house and contracted legal staff to advise government on civil
and criminal law matters. It fulfills the Attorney General's role
as official legal advisor to government. It also negotiates and
drafts agreements, drafts legislation and regulations, manages the
government's liability risks and costs, represents the government
in litigation, and works to reduce the cost of litigation through
the use of technology and improved business practices. Its clients
are government ministries, the Attorney General, Cabinet, and Crown
corporations and agencies. Client ministries partially fund
the area through annual agreements.
The area does not provide direct services to the public. However,
it does serve the public interest by ensuring that government operates
lawfully and that risks associated with government ministry operations
Services are delivered through three main programs: Solicitor Services,
which advises on lawful operations and risk reduction; Barrister
Services, which represents government in litigation and seeks the
best possible outcomes; and Legislative Counsel, which provides
legal advice to Cabinet and the Legislative Assembly and takes direction
One objective of this business area is to reduce the province's
exposure to liability. Since service delivery levels are determined
in large part by ministry budgets, reductions in ministry budgets
can reduce ministries' access to timely legal advice. This could
have the effect of increasing government's exposure to risk, possibly
resulting in an increase in litigation against the government.
Expenditures for Lawful Government
Assisting the Vulnerable and Victims
Two of the ministry branches described earlier in this section
offer services that fall within this business area.
- The Criminal Justice Branch offers victims of crime the
opportunity to provide offence impact information and presents
appropriate victim impact information to the court on sentencing.
If requested, information about charges, court dates and court
outcomes is also provided to victims.
- The Justice Services Branch provides a range of assistance
and resolution opportunities for individuals and families involved
in the justice system. The branch manages the policy framework
of legal aid in such areas as child protection, domestic violence,
mental health and immigration. It helps individuals and families
manage their disputes in a way that provides timely access to
justice, reduces unnecessary litigation and the use of court resources,
reduces the cost to government of benefit programs, and promotes
the safety and mental health of children whose parents are separating
Three programs available to families in dispute have already
been discussed under Social and Economic Stability. They are the
Parenting after Separation Program; the Facilitated Planning Meeting
Program and the Family Justice Dispute Resolution Program.
A fourth program, the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program
(FMEP) facilitates full payment of child and spousal maintenance
by monitoring and enforcing all maintenance orders and agreements.
Through the program, which is delivered by the private sector,
maintenance payments are calculated, received, recorded, and forwarded
to the recipient.
If a payor should fall into arrears and enforcement is necessary,
federal and provincial laws give the FMEP the authority to use
a number of measures, depending on how much money is owing and
what the FMEP knows about the payor's current situation. The program
can attach income, register a lien against the payor's personal
property, and even obtain a court order to seize and sell property
of a delinquent payor.
The ability to enforce maintenance orders and collect arrears
if needed benefits the vulnerable members of a family that is
undergoing separation and divorce. It also benefits government
by reducing the demand for supplementary family support.
This business area is subject to many of the same risks around
mediator availability as those described for Social and Economic
Stability. The ministry mediates the risk through recruitment actions
and increased membership on the mediator roster.
Expenditures for Assisting the Vulnerable
The judiciary is comprised of Provincial Court Judges, Supreme
Court Justices and Masters, and Court of Appeal Justices. It functions
independently of the Legislative and Executive arms of government,
but is funded both federally and provincially. The federal government
appoints and funds Court of Appeal Justices and Supreme Court Justices.
The provincial government funds Provincial Court Judges, Judicial
Justices of the Peace and Supreme Court Masters. The province also
allocates budget for administrative and support services and funds
administration staff, case managers, trial coordinators and support
The Court Services Branch supports this core business area by providing
registry operations, court administration, prisoner escort and court
security. With Court Services assistance, the judiciary develops
specific projects such as the Provincial Court's criminal case flow
management process and rules, and the Supreme Court's reforms for
expedited case processing.
Improved criminal case flow management rules are intended to bring
greater efficiency to courtroom processes by ensuring that court
events occur when they are scheduled and that Crown counsel and
defence counsel engage in meaningful discussions early in the process.
Risks to this business area would include a loss of judges on the
bench due to illness, retirements or non-replacement. If the area
operates with reduced numbers, this could reduce the projected number
of sitting hours.
Expenditures for Independent Judiciary
Aboriginal Negotiation and Litigation
Services offered in this core business area are similar to those
described earlier in this report under Lawful Government, except
that the focus is on aboriginal law issues. The Legal Services
Branch, by providing sound legal advice through its Solicitor services,
supports the treaty negotiation process in achieving its goals and
objectives. Barrister services involve representing government and
its ministries in aboriginal litigation matters. Principal clients
for this business area are ministries and the Treaty Negotiation
Office of the Ministry of Attorney General. The area does not provide
direct services to the public.
Client ministries are charged for legal services received. Consequently,
both access to services and service levels are dependent on client
ministry budgets. Funding reductions may limit access to timely
and adequate legal advice, possibly rendering ministries less able
to avoid legal risks.
Expenditures for Aboriginal Negotiation and
Statutory, Special Accounts and Agencies, Boards and Commissions
The purpose of this core business area is to support the operations
of agencies, boards and commissions (ABCs) for which the Ministry
of Attorney General and the Ministry of Public Safety & Solicitor
General are responsible. Responsibilities include administrative
and policy support, database management, and management of the Order
in Council (OIC) and Ministerial Order (MO) appointment process
for both ministries.
This business area also provides contract management and logistical
and administrative support to statutory bodies (e.g., commissions
of inquiry, Electoral Boundaries Commission, Judicial Compensation
Committee, Judicial Justice Compensation Committee ) and to major
projects (e.g., the Administrative Justice Project and the Pay Equity
Services are delivered by ministry staff and contractors. Clients
are the Attorney General, the Solicitor General, the Deputy Attorney
General, the Deputy Solicitor General, the Deputy Minister of the
Treaty Negotiation Office, ministry branches responsible for specific
ABCs, and commissions of inquiry. There are no direct services to
the public, although the public does benefit through the actions
of the agencies, boards and commissions that have been established
in the public interest and which receive ministry support.
Risks that this business area might experience are largely administrative.
For example, an unexpected database failure could delay appointment
processes. This, in turn, could affect an agency's ability to deliver
its services and honour its commitments on time. Additional demands
brought about by an increased number of inquiry commissions and/or
special projects would likely exceed area capacity and result in
diminished services and delays.
Expenditures for Statutory, Special Accounts
Corporate Services for Ministry of Attorney General and Ministry
of Public Safety and Solicitor General
This business area provides support services to the ministries
of Attorney General and Solicitor General and to the Treaty Negotiations
Office (TNO). Included among these services to both ministries and
the TNO are financial and resource management, policy and legislation
development, facility inspections, corporate planning and reporting,
and information technology development. The ministry branches responsible
for most of these services are Policy, Planning and Legislation
and Management Services.
Corporate Services is often given responsibility for launching
new ministry and government justice initiatives — or certain
aspects of such initiatives — and developing them to a point
where they can be turned over to other areas of the ministry or
to other agencies for further action. The Citizens' Assembly on
Electoral Reform is one example where Corporate Services oversaw
development of a terms of reference to govern the Assembly, which
later moved under the auspices of the Legislative Assembly. Another
example is the Administrative Justice Project (AJP), one of many
justice reform efforts under way in this business area. The AJP
reviewed the nature, quality and timeliness of the services that
administrative justice agencies such as the Labour Relations Board
and the Commercial Appeals Commission deliver to the public. Following
the review, a separate Administrative Justice Office was set up
to implement recommendations from the review.
Corporate Services also analyses existing policies and legislation
and develops new policy or legislation in support of priority initiatives.
Through the Management Services Branch, it provides budget development
and monitoring; revenue planning; accounting and financial reporting;
payment processing; financial control and systems support; and support
for procurement, and for contract and risk management. It is also
responsible for developing effective technology solutions for the
two client ministries. Services are delivered by staff and occasionally
by contracted providers.
While there are no direct services to the public, the public interest
is served in several ways. For example, criminal justice, civil
justice and family justice policies are vital to the public interest
and central to the tenets of a democratic society. The development
of legislation is a key function of the provincial government. Articulating
government direction and priorities through Service Plans and reporting
on progress achieved through Annual Reports keep the public informed
and the government accountable for its decisions.
This business area moves justice-related initiatives and other
government priorities forward through the timely management and
delivery of key components for each initiative. A decline in
the capacity of this business area, coupled with a growing need
and demand for its services, can delay the development and implementation
of major government and ministry initiatives and affect the quality
of services offered to clients.
Expenditures for Corporate Services for MAG/TNO
Treaty Negotiations Office
This office negotiates and implements treaties and other agreements
with First Nations. In doing so, legal certainty regarding
the ownership and use of Crown land and resources is clarified,
which contributes to economic growth for all British Columbians.
Risks this business area might experience relate to the pace and
complexity of negotiations and the uncertainty surrounding agreement
closure given the tripartite nature of the treaty process.
Expenditures for the Treaty Negotiations