560 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 79 PART 4 JULY 2021
Travel time is saved. Justice is less painful in its administration. The tools
of modernization are not suitable for all files, but for many matters they are
already saving time and energy for many involved.
For example, in our province’s North, those in custody in RCMP cells in
remote and rural communities do not have to travel to a major centre for a
contested bail hearing anymore, saving them time away from their community,
reducing time spent in custody awaiting a bail hearing, avoiding sheriffs’
need to transport them and improving timely access to justice. This
pilot, established through the leadership of our Provincial Court Chief Justice
and her team, along with our Court Services Branch, police and many
other partners, is planned to be expanded beyond the North following the
success of this initiative.
Funding will bring further changes for the profession. Expect to see continuing
work between the courts and the provincial government in areas
such as electronic document management and filing, as well as to provide
for more virtual appearances. Extensive work is also underway thanks to
these new resources to implement digital content management to ensure
that documents can be managed digitally throughout various court
processes at all three levels of court. Starting with electronic filing and following
through pre-trial processes and the trial itself, the goal is to develop
the ability to manage documentation electronically from start to finish.
For those concerned about access to justice, you can look forward to ease
of access for British Columbians to online hearings and resolution for things
like traffic court, as well as e-filing systems that support self-represented litigants.
For example, in the family law world, work is underway for pathways
to guide lay applicants through the paperwork required for a Family
Law Act protection order or other application about a family law matter. We
are expanding the online “Divorce Assistant” system to support those making
joint applications for divorce, with or without children, as well as sole
applications for divorce.
We have also partnered with Access Pro Bono, Qase Technologies and
family law mediators in private practice to prototype an enhanced online
referral system for family mediation to provide other avenues of dispute
resolution for families with more complex financial matters.
A probate pathway is also in the works. So is work to change the Small
Claims Rules to specifically allow for remote hearings and pre-trial conferences—
a change that will bring great efficiencies for self-represented litigants
(and counsel), who will not have to spend their day in provincial court
buildings waiting for their matter to be called.
On the access to justice front, the goal of much of this modernization is
to place the lay court service user at the centre of the process, guiding them