Legal Aid responds to judge's controversial comments
The Legal Aid Commission says Judge John Joy is both wrong and right in his attack against the Crown's operation in Labrador.
Joy, who works in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, outlined his issues with the Crown prosecutor's office and Legal Aid in Labrador in a no-holds-barred, 21-page letter.
Nick Avis, the chair of the Legal Aid Commission, said he isn't happy with some of the judge's comments.
"Essentially, he's suggesting that our solicitors are acting contrary to the code of ethics, and that somehow or other, this is a result of the positions that the commission takes," he said.
"We take great exception to the notion that our solicitors are acting unethically."
We take great exception to the notion that our solicitors are acting unethically.- Nick Avis, chair of the Legal Aid Commission
But Avis said he agrees with the judge on some of his other points.
"Joy addresses a number of the systemic issues in Labrador which we have attempted to address, such as delays [and] the need for more resources," he said.
"One example is, he says we need two lawyers in Happy Valley-Goose Bay to do duty council.
"He [also] makes reference to the delays in Child, Youth and Family Service hearings, which take [anywhere] from a year to two years to be heard, when the legislation speaks of time frames of eight, 10, and 30 days."
Avis said the delays in those hearings are due to insufficient resources in Labrador.
He said the problem is that not enough funding is provided by the province and the federal government.
"We need substantially more resources and substantially more personnel," Avis said.
"I also think we need something like a symposium in Labrador where all the groups get together and discuss what is going on in an open, public forum."
Avis said Joy is also critical of Legal Aid for not acting more aggressively to have healing circles as part of the sentencing for Aboriginal people in Labrador.
"From my perspective, there is insufficient input from our Aboriginal people at the sentencing stage, and that's where our system has to change," Avis said.
"[Joy] makes reference to that, and there is almost universal agreement on that."
Avis said the issue needs to be addressed — and quickly.
"The only way to deal with it is to get some kind of a dialogue and conversation going between our government and the Aboriginal people, but I feel we need to do something very soon," he said.
Avis said the Legal Aid Commission will meet in April to discuss Joy's criticisms, and formulate a formal response.
An official complaint against Joy has been filed by Donovan Molloy, the director of public prosecutions, with the Judicial Council.
A written statement from the Legal Aid Commission, which was released on Friday, says that during this time, while the proper authorities address Joy's actions, the public shouldn't lose sight of the real problems in Labrador.
"In some respects, Judge Joy has given a 'wake-up call,'" the statement reads.
"The problems are systemic; they have been known for decades and the necessary resources and funding have never been put into place.
"Justice in Labrador is in a state of crisis and has been for far too long. It is likely to worsen if something is not done very soon."