The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Kim Covert

Lack of adequate funding for Federal Courts ‘untenable’

August 16 2017 16 August 2017

The CBA revisited the need for adequate funding for courts in a letter to the Justice Minister in early July which called for a mechanism to ensure ongoing funding for the Federal Court, Court Martial Appeal Court, Tax Court and Federal Court of Appeal.

Inadequate funding affects the independence of the judiciary and also becomes an obstacle to access to justice at a time when courts are coming under increasing fire for delays and backlogs.

Last year the CBA expressed its support for a Courts Administration Service initiative that would increase the technological capabilities of the Federal Court, Tax Court and Federal Court of Appeal.

“While your government has undertaken to modernize and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system, including improved use of information technology to make the system more efficient and timely, the same support has not been apparent in the context of the Federal Courts, Court Martial Appeal Court and Tax Court,” the CBA says.

The July letter followed reports of Paul Crampton, Chief Justice of the Federal Court, having to go “cap in hand” to the government to get more money. Crampton underlined the difficulties this poses for judicial independence.

“It is unseemly and it seems wrong for a government that is appearing before the very body that is supposed to be holding it in check or adjudicating its cases, to be able to effectively determine what (the) other body does through the budget mechanism,” Crampton said in an interview with CBC News.

In terms of access to justice, Crampton said in the same interview that his court “(doesn’t) have enough staff in the courtroom. We don’t have enough staff at the registries. And this is giving rise to delays.” He said he needs at least another $25 million to fill dozens of empty positions, translate decisions and implement a new records management system.

The CBA describes this situation as “untenable,” and suggests the government look to a 2006 report by the Canadian Judicial Council, Alternative Models of Court Administration, for possible solutions.

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