British Columbia

Canada's justice ministers advocate modernizing criminal code to reduce court delays

Federal and provincial justice ministers wrapping up two-day meeting in Vancouver Friday. Quebec's minister said Friday she and others are pushing the federal government to modernize the criminal code to address the backlog in the court system,

Ministers meeting in Vancouver also discuss legal marijuana and sex partners who fail to disclose HIV status

Canadian justice ministers are meeting again today in Vancouver to discuss marijuana, impaired driving and national security. (The Canadian Press)

Quebec's justice minister is telling her provincial and federal counterparts to be "bold" when it comes to slashing court delays before even more criminal cases are thrown out.

Stephanie Vallee said Friday she and other ministers are pushing the federal government to modernize the criminal code to address the backlog in the court system.

Canada's justice ministers are meeting over two days in Vancouver.

Discussions have so far focused on eliminating preliminary inquiries and streamlining case management, she said.

"We need to do more than just cosmetic changes," she said in an interview Friday.

Quebec has borne much of the fallout from the Supreme Court of Canada's Jordan decision, which imposed strict time limits on criminal prosecutions and has resulted in numerous serious cases being tossed over court delays.

More than a thousand so-called Jordan applications are working their way through the province's court system, including cases of alleged murder and sexual assault, Vallee said.

Quebec is also still waiting on the federal government to appoint eight Superior Court judges, though Vallee said she is encouraged to hear the process is underway.

The province has invested $135 million for more judges, prosecutors and court staff to deal with the backlog, she added.

Besides court delays, other agenda items for the two-day meeting included pot legalization and how the justice system deals with people who don't disclose their HIV status to sexual partners.

Vallee said the rush to have regulations in place ahead of the federal government's July 1 deadline to legalize marijuana is getting in the way of the province getting work done on passing other laws.

"It's asking for us to do a lot within a very short period of time," Vallee said. "We also had a legislative agenda that's been pushed because of this. We had no choice."

Quebec's public consultations wrapped up two days ago and Vallee says she expects her government to unveil its regulatory framework for marijuana in the coming months.

Last week, Ontario became the first province to go public with its plans for legalized cannabis, announcing its intention to restrict sales to stores operated by the provincial liquor board.

The justice ministers' meeting is scheduled to wrap Friday.