Letter: Our justice system is failing Albertans

Crime is rising across our province. In 2015 alone, it went up 18 per cent across Alberta, including a 12 per cent rise in violent crimes.

And now trials of accused criminals are being stayed because of mismanagement and a lack of resources in our courts.

Late last year a report from the Macdonald-Laurier Institute showed that Alberta is the worst in the country when it comes to fairness and access to the justice system in our province.

The report gives Alberta a C, the lowest grade across Canada when it comes to fairness and access. Problems with a crucial lack of judges and length of proceedings, as well as charges stayed bring to light areas of improvement in the justice system.

According to the Macdonald-Laurier Institute report the percentage of charges stayed or withdrawn in Alberta is at 35.3 per cent, and the length of an average criminal case is greater than the average at 183 days.

Crown prosecutors have stated that Alberta’s justice system is facing a crisis.

With a shortage of prosecutors affecting the province, Alberta Crown prosecutors have said that “approximately 200 significant charges have been stayed due to a lack of resources.”

All while victims continue to suffer. Justice delayed is justice denied.

The Supreme Court of Canada’s Jordan decision in July 2015 set an 18-month period for provincial court and 30 months in the Court of Queen’s Bench to get a case to trial, adding further strain to an already backlogged justice system. The charges stayed in Edmonton were an attempt by the Crown’s office to triage cases, allowing individuals like those accused of assaulting police officers to get back on the streets.

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Albertans are being set up for failure in a justice system where charges are being stayed for crimes that have a real impact on our communities. The NDP government is throwing billions at phasing out coal and other ideological policies but can’t seem to find the resources to properly fund our justice system and keep criminals off our streets.

The NDP government needs to be holding the Trudeau Liberals to account to fill justice vacancies and properly staff other positions.

Albertans deserve better.

That’s why I’ve introduced Bill 201, the Justice System Accountability Act.

The Justice System Accountability Act would track the length of time from when charges are laid to the initial verdict, and where applicable the additional time until sentencing and final judicial ruling. The Act would also track the number of days in court, the number of adjournments granted, and number of plea bargains.

Tracking these items would assist in ensuring that victims in Alberta are not waiting years to give testimony or for trials to finish, revictimizing those who have gone through traumatic events.

It’s deeply disappointing to see that Alberta’s justice system is not as fair and accessible as it should be for victims of crime. Alberta has higher than average crime rates, but the system is making it hard for victims and their families to seek justice.

This is unacceptable. Clear, urgent reform is needed.

Wildrose is on your side. We’ll introduce the Justice System Accountability Act and ensure that justice is served for victimized Albertans.

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean

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