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Online dispute resolution helps keep BC’s court system moving efficiently

Justice ministers from across the country met in Halifax this past week to discuss the state of the criminal and civil court systems.

Here at home, Minister of Public Safety and the Solicitor General Mike Morris says they’ve been working on ways to keep cases out of the civil court system where possible.

“Online dispute resolution systems, education systems – there’s online courses that people can take if they’re in a divorce situation or some other type of civil issue.”

The idea is to streamline the dispute process and cut down on wait times. BC is the first jurisdiction in Canada to introduce a civil resolution tribunal that allows strata disputes to be managed online.

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“There’s other ways that we can reduce court times as well and a good example of that in BC is our immediate roadside prohibition program. Instead of going to court with the very technical challenges that impaired driving faces these days, we’ve been able to take about 80% of those right out of the court system.”

Morris says roadside driving prohibitions also help reduce deaths due to impaired drivers.

First Nations courts have also been popping up across the province as an alternative to traditional trials.

When asked about when and if we’ll get one in Prince George, Morris said Justice Minister Susan Anton and her ministry are actively pursuing the idea.

“It’s something that her ministry is actively pursuing and there’s a lot of pieces that have to fall together to make that happen. The Chief Provincial Court judge is involved as well as the Justice Ministry. I know they’re actively working on it, I don’t know what stage it’s at but there is a lot of interest.”

Prince George RCMP Superintendent Warren Brown has said he thinks the time has come to move ahead with a First Nations court in the city.

Reforms to reduce delays in the criminal justice system were also discussed but Morris says that’s not too much of an issue in BC.

So far this year, only 12 cases were discontinued due to delay and more than 58 thousand people had criminal cases concluded by the BC Prosecution Service alone.

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