Alberta MPs put pressure on federal government to fill judicial vacancies
Alberta leads the country in judicial vacancies and two Alberta MPs say hundreds of cases have been thrown out in Canada because of a failure to fill the positions.
Michelle Rempel and Michael Cooper are raising awareness about the human cost of judicial vacancies and have started a petition to push the minister of justice into filling the positions immediately.
The politicians say a lack of judges is increasing a backlog in Canada’s courts and that adds stress to the families of the victims.
“Every day that the government drags their feet increases the pressure on our courts, adds stress to victims and their families and allows the opportunities for those accused of serious crimes to have their cases stayed or dismissed. Today, we are once again calling on the prime minister and the minister of justice to immediately address the growing number of judicial vacancies in Canada,” said Rempel at a news conference on Tuesday.
“We wouldn’t need to be here if the minister of justice would do her job and deal with the backlog in Canada’s courts. The fact is that since the Jordan decision, we have seen a growing backlog and continued inaction from the minister,” said Cooper. “Indeed under this minister’s watch we have seen a record number of judicial vacancies. The failure of the minister to fill judicial vacancies in a timely manner is not only an abdication of her responsibilities as minister of justice, it is completely inexcusable in light of the Jordan decision.”
The Jordan application set out a new framework for determining if trial delays are unreasonable and states that Superior Court cases should reach trial within 30 months from the time a person is arrested and in lower courts, cases should go to trial within 18 months.
Sara Baillie and Taliyah Marsman were murdered in their Panorama Hills home in July of 2016 and Edward Downey is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the case. His court proceedings have been delayed until November 2018 and family of the victims worry the case could be impacted by the Jordan rule.
Scott Hamilton is related to Baillie and Marsman and supports the petition. He says he is grateful that Rempel and Cooper are challenging the government ‘to do better.’
“We will be attending a trial 29 months after the alleged murderer was charged with the murders of Sara and Taliyah. The Supreme Court’s decision, called the Jordan Application, created a presumptive ceiling of 30 months to protect the rights of those individuals charged with crimes however, the government’s inaction to appoint judges is not protecting the rights of anyone. We are all entitled to trials without undue delay,” said Hamilton.
“The concerns that the Hamilton family expressed to me are well founded,” said Rempel. “The stress of not knowing if a case will be stayed or dismissed to go to trial is unbearable for those who have already gone through so much.”
According to the province, there are currently 13 judicial positions in the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta and three Court of Appeal of Alberta positions that are vacant. The office of Canada’s justice minister says federal judicial appointments could be announced as early as this week.
To view or sign the petition click HERE