Former justice minister Suzanne Anton meets with three deputy sheriffs during their training session at the Vancouver Law Courts. (Black Press files)

BC BUDGET: NDP hope to nix court delays with $15 million cash influx

Union says funding could stop sheriffs from leaving for higher paid jobs

Multi-year court delays could be done as the government pledges $15 million to hire more sheriffs and admin staff in the 2018 budget.

The province has struggled with a sheriff shortage for years and the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union said that between 2012 and 2016, at least 20 sheriffs left for higher-paid jobs.

Union president Stephanie Smith said that retention, rather than recruitment, has been the issue.

“They’re running a lot of training [courses] but as soon as they’re trained they’re being poached into other policing services,” said Smith.

“We do have a real crisis in the sheriff numbers.”

The shortages led to six courtroom delays and eight closures between fall 2016 and spring 2017.

READ: Kamloops sheriffs being flown into Victoria to deal with shortage

Smith said she was relieved that part of the $15 million announced Tuesday will go towards hiring support staff.

“That causes just as much delay as when you don’t have a sheriff in your courtroom,” said Smith.

Finance Minister Carol James said she was committed to increasing “access to affordable, quality” legal help.

“Over the years, cuts to legal aid and reductions in family law services have left people without legal representation and torn families apart,” she said.

The province is spending $10 million over three years to pay for new family dispute resolution services, as well as improve online access for remote parts of the province.

They’re also spending $26 million to expand legal aid, $11 million of which will go to expand the Parents Legal Centre.

The centre helps with providing quick solutions to family law disputes and access to mediation.

One already exists in Vancouver; another is set to launch in Surrey.

The funding follows recommendations from Grand Chief Ed John’s recommendations on Indigenous child welfare.

West Coast Leaf said they were disappointed with the meager additional funding.

“The additional funding for dispute resolution fall far short of the need for legal representation,” they noted in a release.


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