Yesterday, BCGEU president Stephanie Smith met with Suzanne Anton, Minister of Justice. Also attending the meeting were BCGEU vice presidents Dean Purdy (Corrections and Sheriff Services – Component 1); Doug Kinna (Social, Information and Health – Component 6); and Lori Joaquin (Administrative Services – Component 12) along with Maria Middlemiss (BCGEU Component 12 first vice-chair,) and BCGEU Regional Coordinator Michael Eso. Minister Anton was accompanied by her deputy minister and other senior staff.
We raised a number of key issues with Minister Anton including the shortage of sheriffs and courthouse staff that is causing delays in the justice system, creating extreme workload pressure for administrative staff, and compromising courthouse safety. We highlighted the importance of getting to the hearing stage in the ongoing Benchmark Review process for sheriffs so that we may address serious recruitment and retention problems and ensure wage parity with other law enforcement occupations.
Other issues raised included the Family Justice Branch’s use of Expressions of Interest instead of proper job postings, the need for staff training, and a number of safety issues relevant to members in Court Services.
“This meeting gave us the opportunity to meet with the minister and raise the concerns we are hearing from our frontline members,” said Stephanie Smith. “The issues we raised don’t just affect the working conditions of our members, they also have a serious impact on our justice system. We offered the minister specific suggestions on how we believe these services can be improved to create better working conditions for our members.”
The problems in our justice system are well known to the legal community. In February, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Johnston had to shut down a trial in Victoria because of a staff shortage. He told the crowded courtroom: “The province of British Columbia has failed in its constitutional obligation to properly fund the administration of justice.”
"I was pleased at the receptive and informed responses we received from Minister Anton on the issues we raised, including our suggestion to establish a joint working group. We will be looking for opportunities to work with the minister and ministry staff to advance our recommendations,” said Smith.
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