Statue of Lady Justice outside courthouse, at B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

Statue of Lady Justice outside courthouse, at B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

B.C.’s justice system in ‘triage,’ attorney general says

David Eby spoke in a “digital town hall” meeting hosted on Wednesday by the Surrey Board of Trade, via Zoom

Attorney General David Eby says the pandemic has put our justice system in a state of “triage.”

COVID-19 has “incredibly challenged” B.C.’s justice system, Eby said in a “digital town hall” meeting hosted on Wednesday by the Surrey Board of Trade, via Zoom.

“A lot of things that were very sacred in the justice system in terms of showing up in person, looking somebody in the eye and so-on, had had to face the reality that that’s just not deliverable in a COVID world,” Eby said.

Before the pandemic, he noted, literally thousands of people passed through B.C.’s courthouse doors every week.

“The entire system is premised on face-to-face appearances, people being able to pass paperwork back and forth – it’s largely still a very paper-based system,” he noted.

READ ALSO: City governments to get more power over patio approval, attorney general says

“This system that has existed in this way for a long time has really been incredibly challenged by restrictions on social distancing and the ability to even just show up to the registry and pass some paperwork back-and-forth and get things stamped and so-on, all really challenging in a socially distance-required situation that we face.”

So far into the pandemic, there’s been a “very limited re-opening” of the courts for “urgent” family and criminal matters where “irreparable harm will be done, essentially, if the hearing doesn’t go ahead.”

Judges have been appearing in the Court of Appeal via Zoom while B.C. Supreme Court and the provincial courts have been using Microsoft Teams to do trials.

“They’re rolling out these different video-based platforms to do things essentially the old way with face-to-face appearances over video, and then the electronic registry has reduced restrictions to be able to file electronically,” he said. “I would describe that as the triage level and we’re slowly getting into the second level which is okay, we’re assuming these restrictions are going to be in place for a long time, there’s a dramatic backlog.”

He said work is happening “very aggressively,” with prisoners appearing before judges through video conferencing instead of being driven in, “for obvious reasons.

“We’re expanding video conferencing across the province,” Eby said. “We’re running into things like there’s not enough bandwidth in the courtrooms to support the level of videoconferencing that we need to have happening, so the infrastructure, even, in the courtrooms needs to be built up. It’s a system that is very old, and very tradition-based, that is changing on a dime and it’s quite remarkable to see it happening.”

During the Surrey Board of Trade’s digital town hall meeting the attorney general addressed other topics as well, including ICBC.

Eby noted that for people cancelling their insurance because they are not using vehicles as much during the pandemic, and businesses with a commercial fleet, that are only using a half or portion of their fleet, ICBC has waived cancellation, restarting and re-plating fees.

“The net effect of that has been really significant,” he said. “We’ve seen about $250 million of insurance premiums that ICBC was expecting to collect not come in. That’s an annualized number so if things continue as expected going forward that number will get smaller hopefully over time. If however we’re in lock-down for a longer period of time that $250 million gap will be what we’re looking at at the end of the year, or perhaps worse if more people are laid off or not using their vehicles for work.”

But as for the lower premiums forecast next year, Eby said, “We are currently still on time.

“In May of 2021 we’re still projecting a 20 per cent, on average, reduction in ICBC rates for drivers in the province, that is both commercial and personal, which is an average of about $400 per driver.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook and follow Tom on Twitter

Attorney GeneralCoronavirusCourtLaw and justiceSurrey

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Stephanie Cadieux, recently re-elected as MLA for Surrey South, has been named BC Liberal Caucus Chair. (contributed photo)
Surrey South MLA Stephanie Cadieux named Liberal caucus chair

Longtime MLA confident BC Liberals will present an effective opposition

The 3D Digital Breast Tomosynthesis Mammography machine, new to the Surrey Breast Health Clinic at the Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre. (submitted photo)
New 3D breast-cancer technology in Surrey ‘has already helped so many women’

Digital breast tomosynthesis new to Surrey Breast Health Clinic

Anita Huberman, CEO Surrey Board of Trade. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey Board of Trade calls for ‘immediate’ government help for businesses shut down

‘Don’t punish all businesses for the sins of a few,’ CEO Anita Huberman says

Gurdawara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar in Surrey is warning the public of a possible COVID-19 exposure at the temple between Nov. 18 and 20. (Photo: Google Street View)
Surrey gurdwara warns of possible COVID-19 exposure

Facebook post says individual was at the temple Nov. 18 to 20

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

BC Teachers' Federation President Teri Mooring is asking parents of school-aged children to encourage the wearing of masks when possible in schools. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
LETTER: Teachers union encourages culture of mask wearing in B.C. schools

BCTF President Teri Mooring asks parents to talk with children about wearing masks in school

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

Police lights
Vancouver elementary school locked down after unknown man walks into classroom

Police arrested the man and sent him for a psych evaluation

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

(Pixabay)
All dance studios, other indoor group fitness facilities must close amid updated COVID-19 rules

Prior announcement had said everything except spin, HIIT and hot yoga could remain open

B.C. Liberal interim leader Shirley Bond speaks to reporters from Prince George via Zoom conference, Nov. 24, 2020. MLAs are being sworn in for the legislature session this week, many of them also by video. (B.C. legislature)
B.C. Liberal leadership contest will wait for election post-mortem

Interim leader set to face NDP on payments for COVID-19

Tabor Home in Abbotsford. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Tabor Home in Abbotsford records 8 deaths and 124 COVID-19 cases

63 per cent of residents at long-term-care facility have tested positive

Most Read