I thought I’d use our new Provincial Offences Act project to illustrate at least one way that we carry out our projects. The Board of Governors approved this project on April 2, 2009. Briefly, the purpose is to make recommendations to modernize the POA and bring it into line with other legislation and with up to date court processes. That doesn’t tell you much, though, and there’s good reason for that.
The impetus for the project came from a practitioner who submitted a proposal to us in December 2007. We had already committed to a number of projects by then, but finally felt we could come up for air earlier this year. The project will likely bear some similarity to the proposal, but may be structured quite differently. At this point, there’s lots of possibility: increased use of administrative monetary penalties? repeal of Part II? review of sentencing? criteria for the due diligence defence? effective use of technology that enhances and doesn’t compromise access to justice? relationship of the POA to other legislation that feeds back into the POA? clarifying strict liability and mens rea offences? and on and on, including some issues we haven’t identified yet. Lots to do and so little time. We’re unlikely to do everything that needs doing. We want to prepare a useful review of the POA that allows us to make some feasible recommendations that will have an impact if enacted within about 15 months time.
Mark Schofield, our new MAG LCO Counsel in Residence, who is in charge of this project, has been spending the last month or so meeting or otherwise contacting groups and individuals interested in how the POA operates. He’s also looking at MAG’s Streamlining consultation paper. He’s looking for common threads in his conversations and drawing out various concerns that may find their way into the parameters of the project. Mark is also giving serious thought to the individuals and groups who should be represented in an advisory group. we haven’t had any real experience with these groups yet, but generally we will look to them to provide expertise, on the ground experience and links to others in the community.
He’ll prepare a consultation paper out of these conversations and his own research that we’ll distribute widely, as well as post on our website. This will allow a considerably more diverse and widespread group to let us know the most important issues under the POA. They might let us know from experience, for example, that if we fail to recommend X when we recommend Y, we might as well not recommend doing Y. For this consultation, we’ll use in-person and technological methods of reaching people and encouraging them to reach us.
Mark and his student assistant will be continuing to do research, making as sure as they can be that we’re up to date with what others are doing in the area. We’ll be consulting and taking into account the advice of the advisory group up to the point of preparing an interim report – and we’ll get comments from the public on that, too, along with the response of the Board of Governors. The Board of Governors has the final say and then we issue our final report. Look for it!