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Vivene Salmon

CBA launches national task force to help with plans to reopen and improve justice system

Tuesday, April 28, 2020 @ 3:54 PM | By Cristin Schmitz

Canadian Bar Association (CBA) president Vivene Salmon is chairing a new blue-ribbon national task force that will make recommendations for improving, and eventually gearing up, the justice system that has almost ground to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 19-member task force, which includes Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Richard Wagner, and the chief justices of the Federal Court of Appeal, Federal Court and Tax Court, will identify, for example, immediate and evolving issues in the legal and justice system related to public health restrictions like physical-distancing measures, according to the association’s April 28 announcement.

Vivene Salmon, CBA president

The task force will also propose solutions for addressing court and tribunal backlogs that grew as a result of the current near-total suspension of proceedings, as well as make recommendations for systemic changes to enable the federal legal and justice systems to more effectively deliver justice, and serve legal needs in both normal and extraordinary circumstances.

The task force met for the first time on April 23. Its final report to be delivered by Dec. 31, 2020, is to be issued publicly by March 2021. The group will also report and make recommendations on an interim basis, as necessary, on immediate and evolving issues.

In a statement Salmon, the chair of the CBA “Task Force on Justice Issues Arising from COVID-19,” said “we have gathered together people from the national courts and federal organizations to take a big-picture look at systemic issues in the justice and legal systems that keep us from being flexible enough to adapt quickly in a time of crisis, and to find ways to deliver justice more effectively.”

According to task force’s terms of reference, its mandate is to assess legal and delivery issues in the Canadian justice system resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, anticipating the needs in four timeframes: immediate issues flowing from public restrictions; evolving requirements to deliver legal and justice services as pandemic disruptions continue; addressing backlogs and other issues as Canada transitions into the recovery period; and systemic changes to more effectively deliver justice and serve legal needs in Canada, particularly in the face of future public health crises.

Chief Justice Richard Wagner

The task force will also consult with the members in its various sections to document issues unique to specific areas of practice and will work with justice-sector organizations to identify, and implement, innovative ways to address those issues.

Salmon noted the 36,000-member organization has been advocating for many years for changes to the system that would make it more responsive to the needs of those seeking justice.

“The CBA has long advocated for the courts to modernize, for example, to allow for things like e-filing and other measures that could lessen the impact of social distancing on our ability to do our job,” she said.

“This crisis has shown us that we can no longer afford to delay those innovations,” she remarked.

Justice-sector members of the task force include: François Daigle, associate deputy minister of the federal Department of Justice; Federation of Law Societies of Canada president Morgan Cooper; Catherine Dauvergne, the president of the Council of Canadian Law Deans; Daniel Gosselin, chief administrator of the Courts Administration Service for the Federal Court, Federal Court of Appeal, Tax Court and Court Martial Appeal Court; and Orlando da Silva, chief administrator of the Administrative Tribunals Support Service of Canada.

CBA members of the task force include: the association’s vice-president Brad Regehr; Tom Laughlin, chair of the CBA Policy Committee; John Gillis, chair of the CBA Access to Justice Subcommittee; Martine Boucher, chair of the CBA Legal Futures Subcommittee; Christopher Wirth, chair of the administrative law section; Stuart Zacharias, chair of the civil litigation section; Kathryn Pentz, chair of the criminal justice section; Sharon Kravetsky, vice-chair of the family law section; and Daniel Bourque, chair of the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association.

Photo of Chief Justice Richard Wagner by Roy Grogan

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