Quebec seeks to address backlog in judicial system

The Quebec government introduced an omnibus bill on the last day of the fall session, which includes measures to ease court delays — according to the justice minister, a much-needed "cultural shift" in a system plagued by delays for years.

New judge positions for northern Quebec, more legal aid services among proposed measures in Bill 168

Quebec Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée says the bill proposes a 'cultural shift' in the province's courts. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

The Quebec government introduced a sweeping bill on Friday aimed at improving access to the province's justice system and speeding up the judicial process.

"Our justice [system] needs to be more accessible, more efficient and has to be adapted to the reality of society," said Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée.

Bill 168, tabled on the last day of the fall session at the National Assembly, proposes nearly 40 measures.​

If passed, the bill would create two extra positions for judges to oversee judicial cases in northern Quebec, where Vallée said there is backlog of cases.

The province also wants to help Quebecers in the regions who wish to file an appeal. As it stands, citizens can only file an appeal in either Quebec City or Montreal.

Under the changes, citizens would be able to file an appeal at regional courthouses.

The bill also includes expanding legal aid to include more services and resources so that certain cases don't have to go before the courts.

Vallée said the proposed measures are meant to ease delays in the province's judicial system, a much-needed "cultural shift" in a system plagued by delays for years — even before the Supreme Court of Canada handed down the Jordan ruling in 2016.

Under that ruling, trials involving less serious offences must now be wrapped up within 18 months, and those involving more serious charges, including murder, face a 30-month deadline. 

With files from La Presse Canadienne