VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - May 10, 2012) - Legislation introduced this week was drafted without consultation, despite dramatically altering the province's system of justice and leaving individuals to fend for themselves in legal disputes.
Bill 44 (Civil Resolution Tribunal Act) was introduced on May 7 - just three months after the BC Government launched a justice-system review that has yet to be completed.
"The goal should be to improve the existing system, not create a new one that denies people the right to representation," said Marc Kazimirski, president of the Trial Lawyers Association of BC.
If it becomes law, Bill 44 will force people to represent themselves before a tribunal, with very few exceptions. This "general rule" sets up a dangerous scenario whereby laypeople will not be able to rely on legal assistance even when they are up against far more powerful forces.
At present, a review process is still being conducted by Mr. Geoffrey Cowper QC. Though it deals primarily with criminal law, there is potentially plenty to be learned by Mr. Cowper's work and the report of recommendations he will complete before the end of July.
"Whether it is a civil dispute in small claims court or a case where a person is charged of a crime, self-represented citizens cause the system to slow down and jeopardize the pursuit of justice," Kazimirski said.
The tribunal legislation stands in significant contrast to what the government set out to do when Mr. Cowper was appointed to lead a review. Bill 44 was created without consulting the legal community. "In contrast, the Cowper review is all about consultation," Kazimirski explained. "Several of our members have already taken part in meetings with him. People all over the province are waiting with interest for the report he will write on the strength of many consultations."
Bill 44 has passed Second Reading. It is now headed for an all-important assessment by a committee of the government as a whole.
TLABC THUMBNAIL BIO:
The Trial Lawyers Association of BC has a voluntary membership base that is 1400 people strong, with legal professionals located throughout the province actively practicing in a diverse range of areas. Many members have a mixed practice, though a common characteristic of their work is that they represent individuals rather than corporations, governments or other large entities. Practice areas include family, employment and immigration law, wills and estates, criminal defence and personal injury litigation. The association of today is a not-for-profit society with 32 years of history to its credit. Members are united with the goals of protecting the rights of individuals, ensuring access to the courts, preserving the jury system and maintaining the highest standards in legal education for the profession.