This initiative was created to identify and recommend reforms to improve the criminal justice system in response to a justice reform process that began with an internal government audit and culminated in the release of a Green Paper, Modernizing British Columbia’s Justice System, in February 2012.
Geoffrey Cowper, QC, was appointed as Chair of the British Columbia Justice Reform Initiative (the Chair) to conduct an independent review of the criminal justice system, his final report, A Criminal Justice System for the 21st Century, was published in August 2012.
Members of the public and those who work within the justice system were invited to share their views and comments to help shape the recommendations to government and judiciary put forward by the Chair with the intention of bettering the experience of victims and the community when dealing with the criminal justice system, as well as looking at the challenges as set out in the Green Paper. Top issues affecting the public’s access to timely justice and what can be done to ensure the desired impacts while respecting the independence of the judicial system were identified and examined.
In reviewing the recommendations, the B.C. government developed an action plan in the form of a White Paper, Part One: A Modern, Transparent Justice System was released in October 2012, and Part Two: A Timely, Balanced Justice System followed in February 2013. The White Paper considered the reviews and consultations that took place under the Justice Reform Initiative, including the Legal Services Society report, a review of B.C.’s Charge Assessment process (page 238 of Cowper’s Final Report), the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry report, a public engagement on policing and other applicable government reform projects.
Public consultation was held from March to August 2012.
- Over 6,000 visits to the website
- 150 submissions from institutional stakeholders and the public
- Approximately 150 people completed the online survey
- Approximately 120 meetings were held with individuals and groups around the Province
- 63 comments were received on the blog
Input leads to action:
- Regular Justice Summits were one of the recommendations in the Final Report by the Chair and were included in the Justice Reform and Transparency Act that passed in spring 2013, requiring the Council to convene a Justice Summit at least once a year to create an environment where justice sector partners can work together to make positive change. The Justice Reform Initiatives website provides additionl information on the government’s justice reform initiative, including governance, family and civil justice, public safety, courts and resources.
- The Justice and Public Safety Council was also established as a result of the Act, the council, which is appointed by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, is responsible for:
- setting the strategic direction and vision for the provincial justice system through an annual Justice and Public Safety Plan;
- engaging in dialogue with justice and public safety participants and stakeholders; and
- guiding the way to open, transparent and accountable leadership.
- On October 19, 2016 during Access to Justice Week, Geoffrey Cowper, Q.C., presented a four-year update report, which highlights B.C.’s progress in improving early resolution rates, achieving better timelines in criminal justice cases and improving the handling of complex prosecutions.
More detailed information about the council’s responsibilities is set out in Section 7 of the Act.
- For more information on how the Proposals for Reform specific to B.C.’s Prosecution Service has been substantially completed, please view the B.C.’s Prosecutions Service: Completed Criminal Justice Reforms report 2012 – 2015.
- As a component of Part Two of the White Paper, the government of B.C. committed to developing, in consultation with the judiciary and other justice partners, a strategic, evidence-based approach for specialized court initiatives, this strategy is outlined in the Specialized Court Strategy.