The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs

Are Canada’s court delays stretched to the breaking point? Senate study launched

February 2, 2016

Ottawa — The Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs tomorrow begins a study that will focus on court delays in hearing criminal cases in Canada. The committee plans to listen to experts and review the body of research to identify the legal, policy, and operational issues that lead to court delays, after which it will make important recommendations that can serve as a resource for operational and policy reform across the country.

Delays between the laying of charges and the disposition of a criminal case can be significant in Canada. High profile examples of lengthy wait times include the 2003 Robert Pickton case, which was delayed by nearly five years, and the 2009 Shafia family murder case, which was delayed by two years and three months.

“Excessive delays in criminal proceedings have consequences. They put a strain on police resources, when officers spend their days waiting in courtrooms rather than being on the street. They leave victims and other witnesses feeling frustrated, and, ultimately, they result in a loss of public confidence in the justice system,” said committee Chair Senator Bob Runciman. “Imagine how the victim of a very serious crime feels when the case does not proceed solely because a judge has ruled the delay in coming to trial has been too long,” he added.

“This study will better allow Canadians to understand how court delays are a weakness in Canada’s justice system and hopefully suggest ways that Parliament can address such delays,” said Senator Mobina Jaffer, Deputy Chair of the committee.

By examining the issue from a national perspective, and hearing from witnesses from throughout the justice system, the committee hopes to identify best practices, including such things as specialized courts for mental health, drugs, and domestic violence.

The first witness will be Mr. Justice Patrick J. LeSage, the retired chief justice of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Mr. Justice LeSage presided over the Paul Bernardo trial and also co-authored, with law professor Michael Code, a seminal report on long and complex criminal trials.

To follow the committee’s proceedings and learn more about the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, click here.

The Senate of Canada is on Twitter: @SenateCA, follow the committee using the hashtag #LCJC.


For more information, please contact:

Jessica Richardson
Committee Clerk
Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs
Senate of Canada

Mélisa Leclerc
Director of Communications
Senate of Canada