Edmonton

Alberta justice minister confident fixes for court system will come soon

Alberta Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, Kathleen Ganley, responded to criticism that the provinces lack of Crown resources and a recent Supreme Court ruling may cause cases to be thrown out.

'This is not an issue that arose overnight, this has been building up for years, for even decades'

Alberta Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, Kathleen Ganley, said Alberta has the "lowest number of superior court justices per capita." (Peter Evans/CBC)

Alberta Minister of Justice Kathleen Ganley says she is confident "moves will be made expeditiously" to address issues plaguing the province's sluggish court system.

Ganley's comments Friday come in light of a recent Supreme Court ruling that could lead to charges being stayed as a result of shortages of judges and Crown prosecutors — even in the case of violent crime charges.

Just this week, an Edmonton judge cited lengthy delays for staying a first-degree murder charge against a former inmate of the Edmonton Institution, in the so-called "fight club" stabbing death.

Lance Matthew Regan's trial for the 2011 stabbing death of fellow inmate Mason Tex Montgrand was to start next Monday, more than five years after he was charged.

In his decision, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Stephen Hillier ruled Regan's constitutional right to be tried within a reasonable time has been violated.

Ganley was in Halifax Friday for a federal-provincial-territorial meeting of justice and public safety ministers. During a media teleconference call, she responded to a question about the Regan case and what the Supreme Court decision may mean for future Alberta court cases.

"It's really troubling to see a family of a victim who is not able to get justice. We're very very concerned about this issue," Ganley said.

'It's really troubling to see a family of a victim who is not able to get justice. We're very very concerned about this issue.' - Kathleen Ganley

 Alberta has the "lowest number of superior court justices per capita," she said.

"This is not an issue that arose overnight, this has been building up for years, for even decades.

"We have been in conversation with our federal counterparts and I'm confident that moves will be made expeditiously and that they understand the seriousness of the concern on this issue." 

Jordan framework

In the Regan case, Justice Hillier cited the recent landmark Supreme Court of Canada ruling of R. v. Jordan that established a new framework (the Jordan framework) to determine whether a criminal trial has been unreasonably delayed by exceptional circumstances or case complexity.

Underfunding is certainly part of the picture in here, and I think... everyone is sort of scrambling to adjust to this new paradigm.- Chris Terepocki

Regan's lawyer, Chris Terepocki, has said the case is the "first echo" of the Jordan framework and there is a lesson to be learned by the entire legal system.

"Underfunding is certainly part of the picture in here, and I think courts and Crown prosecutors, defence and everyone is sort of scrambling to adjust to this new paradigm," Terepocki said earlier this week.

Ganley said the Alberta government is working to do what it can to remedy the situation. 

"From our part, at the provincial government, we're doing a lot of work in terms of provincial court and in terms of our Crown prosecutors' service to ensure that matters are making their way through expeditiously, and to ensure that we are triaging violent matters to the front of the line."

Jody Wilson-Raybould, the federal justice minister, told Friday's teleconference call the federal overnment has committed to a comprehensive review of the judicial system and that will include looking at the efficiency and effectiveness of the system.

"I'm committed along with my colleagues to work together to improve the administration of justice which is a shared responsibility." 

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