It’s no secret Quebec’s justice system is overloaded.
That is part of the reason why Quebec Justice Minister Sonia LeBel introduced on Thursday a new bill to overhaul the civil system, the courts that are supposed to be prosecuting fraudsters and major polluters.
However, instead, LeBel says they are overwhelmed with cases involving vulnerable people who shouldn’t be in the court system at all.
She wants to put an end to what she calls “revolving doors” — people being dragged in and out of the justice system who shouldn’t be there, like those who are homeless or struggling with addiction.
“They did not choose to be there. Something in their life, many, many reasons lead them to be there,” she explained, adding their personal struggles often leads to them being in trouble with the law.
“They’re in parks where they’re not supposed to be, so they are given tickets and then they are faced with a fine that they cannot pay. And then they’re going to prison because they cannot pay that fine. And it goes on and on and on and on,” she said.
Lebel’s bill includes 18 measures to make the penal system more efficient and prevent unreasonable delays.
If passed, Quebecers who don’t need to be in the system would be referred to social programs.
Court back log is something that desperately needs to be addressed across Canada. Earlier this week, a Global News investigation revealed that since 2016, 800 cases have been thrown out across the country due to delays.
Even though LeBel’s reforms only apply to Quebec civil law, she says it will also help to speed things up when it comes to criminal trials as well.
“In many cases, it’s the same judges, same prosecutors, same attorneys,” she said.
In the past, governments have tried to hire more lawyers and judges to fix the system.
LeBel acknowledged that this has lead to a decrease in delays since the average case took 15 months to go through the courts in 2017 while in 2018, it was 10 months. However, she says it’s time to try a new approach to ensure justice by addressing structural issues.