752 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 78 PART 5 SEPTEMBER 2020
In fact, the Digital Transformation Strategy document as endorsed in
2019 was a very ambitious plan, and the first three years of the road map—
though significantly more pragmatic than the document might otherwise
suggest—was necessarily so given budgetary realities, the need to work
closely with a highly engaged and wildly diverse profession, and the reality
of government timelines. What a difference a few months can make.
The Digital Transformation Strategy’s five-year plan has had the roof cut
off and the engine replaced. What was once a reliable and pragmatic family
vehicle for justice reform has been transformed into a custom hot rod of a
pandemic response plan. Work in partnership with the judiciary on implementing
some of the most highly ambitious year 4 and 5 initiatives is taking
place right now.
Suddenly, our mutually endorsed and somewhat aspirational five-year
plan is relevant in a way nobody imagined: it is a blueprint for technology
that enables social distancing while preserving access to justice as we
respond to the global pandemic.
Remarkably, given the ambitious scope of the Digital Transformation
Strategy’s five-year plan, in partnership with the courts we are already moving
beyond the plan and addressing some notable gaps. For example, the
strategy did not dare to propose that the Court of Appeal should use off-theshelf
technology to offer virtual hearings. It did not detail the kind of tight
integration of online services with family and traffic court envisioned by
our chief judge that we are working on right now. Focused on wireless and
mobile technologies, the plan did not include discussion of basic technologies,
like promising that the B.C. Supreme Court would get a phone line in
every courtroom, conference phones and significantly improved bandwidth
in the first half of 2020.
All of these things have happened, or are happening, right now. And they
are just the start of reforms to come as we grapple with a backlog of cases
in the Provincial Court and the Supreme Court due to public health measures
that restricted access to physical courtrooms for months.
I am inspired by the way the judiciary, the legal profession and public
servants have risen to the challenges of the past few months. This highly
demanding time has required unprecedented cooperation and engagement
between government and the judiciary, as well as the support of all lawyers
as officers of the courts. This need for cooperation and mutual support will
continue into the future as we wrestle down the backlog together in a way
that will leave legacies of improved access to justice for years to come.
Our world has changed. We are being challenged to innovate and rethink
how we provide justice services to the people of British Columbia at a pace