Over the last decade and a half, British Columbians have witnessed our justice system undermined and devalued. There is a lot that needs to be done to advance justice, fairness, and equality in BC.
West Coast LEAF has a vision for how to rebuild a strong and fair system that values human rights and fully complies with our domestic and international obligations. It’s a vision we share with other legal organizations that have also been working for decades on building a more just and equitable province, and together we’ve come up with some solutions for BC’s damaged justice system.
Today, in coalition with BC Civil Liberties Association, Pivot Legal Society, and Community Legal Assistance Society, West Coast LEAF held a press conference to announce our list of comprehensive recommendations to reform BC’s justice system in service of building a more just, equal, and inclusive province.
The report, which has been shared with Attorney General David Eby and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth, as well as the opposition critics, proposes overarching areas of proposed justice system reforms categorized into 10 main areas of law and policy, including but not limited to: policing, access to justice, family law, corrections, human rights, mental illness and addiction, poverty and income inequality, and government compliance with outstanding legal protections.
We believe that there are a number of practical steps that the government can take to immediately lessen the harms that stem from discrimination and unfairness in the justice system. These changes would result in significant positive differences in the lives of women across the province.
Here’s a short list of examples of those recommendations we believe can be implemented immediately by the end of 2017:
1. Expand funding for legal aid for criminal, mental health, poverty, and refugee legal aid, and especially legal aid in family law. We are looking to the new provincial government to take immediate and comprehensive action to address the massive gap between those who can afford to access the justice system and those who are left out.
2. Implement all recommendations of the provincial Missing Women Commission of Inquiry (the Oppal Inquiry), and ensure full and active participation of the government and relevant provincial agencies in the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
3. Improve training for police, Crown, and judiciary to better respond to sexual assault, having regard to the unique nature of sexual assault and the myths and stereotypes about sexual assault, in order to repair survivors’ relationship with the criminal justice system and encourage reporting.
4. Immediately prohibit solitary confinement of incarcerated women and minors, as well as those with mental illnesses or disabilities.
5. Amend social assistance legislation to better support women’s financial independence. The current definitions of “dependent” and “spouse” in these laws put women at a heightened risk of relationship violence, undermine their independence, and interfere with their ability to enter new relationships.
We will continue to hold the government’s feet to the fire on making our justice system responsive to the needs of all people in BC.
To report the full report: click here.