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Manitoba Justice isn’t giving provincial courts the tools they need, say auditor general | CBC News


A lack of resources from Manitoba’s Justice Department is creating delays in the provincial court system, the auditor general says.

In a 46-page report released on Wednesday, Tyson Shtykalo outlined seven recommendations for Manitoba’s Department of Justice which include improving administration and outdated technology, hiring more staff and providing better service in northern Manitoba.

The report examined the efficiency of Manitoba’s provincial court system and found case backlogs and court delays have stalled justice.

“Without the necessary tools, resources, and long-term strategies, access to justice is challenged,” Shtykalo wrote in the report.

While Manitoba is in charge of the provincial court’s administrative operations, he says the Justice Department is not living up to court scheduling responsibilities as laid out in the Provincial Court Act.

Judges need more autonomy and resources to safeguard judicial independence from the government, the report says.

Court office vacancies across Manitoba

The department should also update its information technology strategy, according to Shtykalo, since it now still relies on paper records and outdated IT systems that bog it down.

“The IT systems lack integration, force users to enter the same information into separate systems multiple times, and have poor reporting functionality,” the report says.

High vacancy rates in court offices across Manitoba also threaten the effectiveness of the provincial court system.

That’s most evident in northern Manitoba, where nearly half of all court clerk positions are vacant, according to the report.

While the court in Thompson handles about 10 to 15 per cent of all cases in Manitoba, its average time to reach a decision on a the most severe charges was 384 days between 2021 to 2022, compared to 329 in Winnipeg.

Northern courts are also hamstrung by a lack of reliable internet and cellphone services causing unequal access to justice.

‘No strategy’ for staffing issues: report

Decreasing the time between when a person first appears in court and a final verdict would be a significant step forward and the Justice Department should continue working with provincial courts to reduce delays and backlogs, according to the report.

While everyone has recognized the problem of staff shortages in Manitoba “there is no strategy in place to address this issue,” wrote Shtykalo.

“The longer a case takes to navigate through the court system, the more resources it consumes,” and the provincial court does not expect a decreased workload anytime soon.

The Justice Department agreed with all of the report’s recommendations, except one involving a review of the provincial court’s administrative system, which it said will be raised at a future Manitoba Courts executive board meeting.

Matt Wiebe, the NDP justice critic, says the report shows that Manitoba courts cannot provide the justice that its citizens need. Austerity by the PC  government has hurt the court’s efficiency, pushed prosecutors out and eroded community safety, he said.

“It’s just more evidence that you can’t believe Stefanson’s tough-on-crime rhetoric,” Wiebe said in a Wednesday statement.


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