I am pleased to introduce the 2003/04 Annual Service Plan Report summarizing the past year's accomplishments for both the Ministry of Attorney General and the Treaty Negotiations Office.
In the three years this government has been in office, my ministry has taken significant steps to reform and improve both the laws and the justice system processes in British Columbia. Some steps, such as the Administrative Justice Project, were bold and made us national leaders in law reform. Some, such as bylaw adjudication reform and traffic ticket process reform, were important, but more modest, milestones that moved us closer to our long-term goals.
Other steps, such as those taken by the Treaty Negotiations Office, have steadily prepared the way for the outstanding success achieved by that Office in 2003/04. As part of the government's commitment to revitalize the treaty negotiations process, Agreements-in-Principle were negotiated and signed last year at four different treaty tables from different regions of the province. This accomplishment means that treaty negotiations with four separate First Nations will advance to a final agreement stage, with the prospect of reaching full modern treaties in the near future.
During the past year, the ministry also set a course for upcoming reforms. The Justice Review Task Force had been created in 2002 as a cooperative process of law reform involving the ministry, the judiciary and the bar. In 2003/04, this body established important working groups to recommend future reforms that would address family law issues and street crime issues of concern to those of us living in urban environments.
The necessity of prosecuting the Air India trial over the past year made us an acknowledged leader in the logistical management and prosecution of mega cases. We pioneered innovative courtroom technologies and integrated trial planning, formulated new standards for disclosure, and adapted case management principles to the justice process. These lessons will stand us in good stead in other major trials that are now imminent.
We will continue trying to shape a better justice system for the future. I believe that, by questioning the world as it is, we can find better ways to provide for a just province. We need to ask whether ideas and concepts that were appropriate to another era should be revisited.
The law and its administration are constantly evolving. As legislators, members of the judiciary and bar, and as ordinary citizens, we can shape the direction of this evolution. To do this, we need participatory reform so that the justice system in British Columbia meets the challenges of the future. Indeed, the Citizens' Assembly, though not strictly part of justice reform, may serve as a powerful example of how we can all work together to improve our society.
In the end, we want the justice system to be in harmony with the aspirations of the people it is designed to serve. In the civil justice system, we want to empower people to be able to resolve their disputes. In the criminal justice system, we want to achieve a balance between the interests and rights of victims and the legitimate interests of defendants. With continued collaboration and shared commitment from all parts of the justice system and with citizen support and involvement, I am confident we can turn our vision into reality.
Honourable Geoff Plant
Ministry of Attorney General
and Minister Responsible for Treaty Negotiations
June 15, 2004