A week of court has just been canceled at the Kuujjuaq Courthouse, in Nunavik.
A shortage of judges at the Court of Quebec is jeopardizing hundreds of cases that were to be heard this summer in Nunavik and Abitibi, according to information obtained by Radio-Canada.
La week of hearings which was to begin this Monday in Kuujjuaq, Nunavik, has been canceled due to the lack of available magistrates in northern Quebec.
A week of hearings ;hearings in Abitibi next month are also at risk of being cancelled, again due to the lack of available judges.
There are 13 judge positions in Abitibi, but one position is not filled and two judges are currently on work stoppage. Substitute judges regularly come as reinforcements, but none of them were available to sit in Kuujjuaq as of July 18, a situation that could be repeated in Abitibi this summer.
Defence lawyer Daphnée Creighton laments the impact of the cancellation of the week of hearings on her clients in Kuujjuaq and Kangiqsualujjuaq.
Daphnée Creighton is a lawyer at Yves Ménard Avocats in Montreal.
I have a client who is supposed to give birth at the end of August and what she wanted was for her file to be completed before the birth of her child, says the lawyer. I have to tell him that finally [due to a] lack of resources, we are not traveling, so we will expect you to come to court in September, when you have just given birth.< /p>
The postponements also affect victims and witnesses who had prepared to appear and will have to wait an indefinite period before their case is completed.
More than 300 cases were listed for the court week of July 18 in Kuujjuaq.
According to sources within the judicial community, some of these files risk being postponed for almost a year. At this rate, many of them are likely to fall through the cracks, as defense attorneys file more and more Jordan-type motions.
The majority of these files will be the subject of a request for unreasonable delays, adds Daphnée Creighton.
According to our information, the recent problems in northern Quebec are linked to a lack of permanent and substitute judges, and not to the reduction in the number of hearing days on the schedule of judges of the Court of Quebec.
The Court of Quebec has in fact decided that starting this fall, its judges will benefit from one day of deliberation for each day sitting in court. Currently, judges sit two days for each day of deliberation.
Quebec Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette
Quebec Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette announced on July 7 that it is asking the Quebec Court of Appeal to review the validity of this Court of Quebec decision.
According to the Government of Quebec, nearly than 50,000 cases province-wide are at risk of exceeding deadlines set by the Supreme Court of Canada.
This decision taken by the management of the Court of Quebec unilaterally, and without prior consultation with the various partners in the justice sector, deeply worries the Government of Quebec, said Minister Jolin-Barrette in a press release.
Minister Jolin-Barrette's office says the cancellation of the court week in Kuujjuaq is emblematic of the problems with the justice system in northern Quebec.
Earlier this year, the show Enquêterevealed the many failures of the justice system in Nunavik, where nearly one in six adults is brought before the courts each year.
“Improving access to justice, particularly in northern Quebec, is a priority for the Government of Quebec. Several issues have been raised regarding access to justice in recent years in Nunavik. The cancellation of this court term once again demonstrates the importance of taking action. »
— Élisabeth Gosselin-Bienvenue, spokesperson for the Minister of Justice of Quebec
The government has appointed a prosecutor who has a long track record in Nunavik, Jean -Claude Latraverse, to recommend practical solutions to improve access to justice in the region.
The report has been completed, but has not yet been made public due to the revision and translation needs.
Each recommendation and the ensuing implications will be seriously analyzed in order to improve access to justice and better meet the needs of the population. Work is continuing, says Élisabeth Gosselin-Bienvenue.
Yves Ménard, who runs an active law firm in northern Quebec, adds that the lack of staff at the court office 'Abitibi causes several problems. The minutes are late and the dockets are not up to date, which frequently prevents his firm from being paid within the normal time frame by Legal Aid.
He adds that many difficulties affect the work of his team in Nunavik, including the lack of hotel rooms which often prevent the accused or witnesses from being available to go to court.