The Canadian Bar Association’s Task Force on Justice Issues Arising from COVID-19 studied the issues, wrote a report, and presented it at the February 17, 2021, annual general meeting.
The risk with reports, however, is that they can become static documents, a snapshot of an issue. Reports gather dust as a collection of information if no one pulls up their sleeves to do the actual work to carry out their recommendations – and by the time the report comes out the political will to act may have subsided.
In our case, the ongoing pandemic is keeping these issues current and should help us maintain our momentum. The need for change is no longer theoretical. We’re discussing what the justice system needs in order to modernize as it happens, and not at some unfixed point in the future. We can see issues as they arise, and crowd-source solutions. That means the CBA report has the potential to be more of a how-to video than a still photo.
We have the opportunity to redesign a system to make it work for the people it is supposed to serve.
The report, No Turning Back, makes 18 recommendations. Each one is a call to action for those with a stake in helping the justice system make a smooth transition to the 21st century.
We’ve got our collective minds set on the goal, and now, as George Harrison sang, it’s going to take patience and time, and a whole lot of spending money, to do it right.
It’s going to take a commitment by the federal, provincial and territorial governments to invest in this cornerstone of our democracy. And all of the partners in the justice system are going to have to devote precious time and energy to make sure this doesn’t just become another report on a shelf, but remains a living document, a reference guide for the future.
The CBA advocacy priority this year is modernization of the justice system – for obvious reasons. We welcome your ideas, your engagement on this matter. Let’s start a discussion about where we go from here.
President Brad Regehr and Past President Vivene Salmon were co-chairs of the CBA’s Task Force on Justice Issues Arising from COVID-19.