Five things to know about what’s up for discussion at justice ministers meeting

Five things to know about justice meeting

OTTAWA — Five things justice ministers from across the country are expected to talk about a meeting in Gatineau, Que., Friday.

1) R. v. Jordan. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees someone charged with an offence the right to have their case tried within a reasonable amount of time. Last summer, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the B.C. drug convictions of Barrett Richard Jordan must be set aside due to an unreasonable delay. The Jordan decision, as it has come to be called, put a firm timeline in place: 18 months for provincial courts and 30 months for superior courts.

2) Cases getting thrown out. The 5-4 ruling came with a transitional measure for cases already in the system, but a dissenting minority opinion argued the new time limits could lead to thousands of prosecutions being tossed out. There have been some high-profile examples of charges being stayed due to lengthy delays. But Stephen Coughlan and Jessica Patrick, a law professor and student at Dalhousie University, analyzed cases from before and after the Jordan decision and found that overall, judges were either granting or denying those requests for the same reasons as they would have under the old framework.

3) Vacancies. The Liberal government had promised to change the way it names judges, partly as a way to boost diversity on the bench, but did not unveil the new process until a year after the election. The 2017 federal budget also committed to creating 28 new positions — but as of April 1, there were 59 vacancies.

4) Other ideas to solve a backlogof cases. The Canadian Bar Association has come up with 10 ideas, including getting rid of mandatory sentencing, diverting minor charges and improving legal aid. The Senate committee on legal and constitutional affairs has recommended using electronic monitoring devices to reduce the number of people incarcerated in remand centres. Some provinces are hoping to move away from preliminary inquiries.

5) Cannabis. The justice ministers are also hard at work on figuring out how to handle another big file — the pending legalization of marijuana for recreational use. No formal presentations are expected but it’s likely to come up over dinner and lunch.

— Follow @smithjoanna on Twitter

Joanna Smith, The Canadian Press

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