Your union has been raising concerns about budget cuts and underfunding in our justice system for many years. In 2012 we commissioned a BC Civil Liberties Association report into the criminal justice system. The report, “Justice Denied – The Causes of BC’s Criminal Justice System Crisis”, detailed a court system that had slowed to a crawl due to staff shortages and a decade of budget cuts.
Four years later and nothing has changed.
I know this won’t come as news to our frontline members who work in the courthouses and courtrooms because budget cuts and courthouse staffing shortages are now well into their second decade. This doesn’t just affect the working conditions for our members. Its also about the integrity of our justice system.
The result is that once again, staffing shortages made headlines this week. The stories quickly spread to radio and television news coverage.
On Monday the Times Colonist reported on delays in a serious drug trafficking trial. Because no sheriff was available, the accused was able to plead guilty to a lesser charge. Also on Monday B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Johnson suspended a complex trial because of a shortage of court clerks. He pointed blame directly at the provincial government, saying the Liberals had abdicated their constitutional obligation to adequately fund the justice system.
The province needs to listen to the judges, the legal community, newspaper editorial boards, and you, our frontline members and begin a strategic reinvestment in our justice system.
It is a cornerstone of our province.
It is a fundamental piece of our social fabric.
Our justice system should not be short changed.
Your union will be paying close attention to the provincial budget in two weeks to see if the government is prepared to address in a meaningful way the damage caused by more than a decade of cuts.