News Release Archive

By Justice Minister Jay Abbass

As we look forward to 1997, we see a new year filled with
promise, hope and opportunity. Standing on the edge of the
future, it is helpful to take a look at the past. At the
Department of Justice, much has been accomplished in the past
year, with a focus on positive change and service improvement.
The following highlights the events of the last 12 months.

The year began with some important changes in how we deliver
services. In January, the former Minister of Justice, Bill
Gillis, announced that sheriffs' services would be streamlined.
The move was designed to increase efficiency, while allowing
sheriffs to concentrate on critical areas of operation, such as
court security and prisoner transportation. This initiative also
allowed members of the private sector to further expand in this
area, which makes good economic sense for both government and
those in the business of serving documents.

The plan to upgrade and improve adult correctional facilities in
the province progressed as well. After a call for proposals went
out in January, a "preferred supplier" was chosen in June. ACG
Corrections Services Incorporated will work with the department
in developing a plan that will outline the number of
institutions, style and locations, appropriate security levels
and core programs for inmates. Once a plan is in place, decisions
on the operation of the facilities can then be made. At the close
of the year, the consultation process was in full swing. The
judiciary, barristers' society, staff, municipalities, police,
offenders and community groups are being consulted. Along with a
full analysis of current facilities, alternatives to
incarceration (such as electronic monitoring) will be explored. A
plan is expected to be completed in the spring of 1997.

In February, Dr. John C. Butt became the chief medical examiner
for the Province of Nova Scotia. Dr. Butt's extensive experience
in pathology and forensic medicine spans more than 20 years. Dr.
Butt is the former chief medical examiner for the Province of
Alberta, where he initiated extensive changes in the reporting,
investigative and recording systems on certification of sudden
death in that province. Here in Nova Scotia, Dr. Butt has
recently initiated the first training symposium for medical
examiners. The training opportunity was very well received, and
it is intended that more will follow.

More appointments were announced in February, with the
appointments of Claudine MacDonald and Castor Williams as
Provincial Court Judges. Both individuals have been actively
involved in their communities, and have made important
contributions to the legal community in Nova Scotia. With these
appointments, the judiciary continues to be more reflective of
the community it serves.

A 10 year initiative to upgrade court facilities began in March
with the announcement of the consultant chosen to review the
requirements for court and justice-related offices throughout the
province. John K. Dobbs & Associates, architects and facility
planners, in partnership with Ojolick Associates, will work with
government in developing the courthouse/renovation program. The
plan will provide advice on the replacement or renovation of
court facilities, and will help to ensure current operational
needs are met and appropriate court facilities are developed into
the 21st century.

In May, a compensation package for victims of institutional abuse
was put forward. The Government of Nova Scotia put aside $33.3
million for compensation, and expected up to 500 people to come
forward. The range of compensation varied depending on the degree
of abuse suffered, with 12 categories for compensation in total.
In November, the process was put on hold in order to take stock
of the program. The time out was called to address the burgeoning
number of claimants and to assess the new information relating to
Shelburne found in the government's central registry. The
resumption of the program, with some modifications, was announced
Dec. 6. The commitment to provide compensation to all who were
abused was reiterated, and the levels of compensation remained
unchanged. By year end, a new statement protocol was being
developed to ensure the integrity of the criminal prosecution is
protected and perpetrators are brought to justice.

The results of a review of Legal Aid were unveiled in May. The
review was struck to examine the structure and practices of legal
aid, and to identify the most appropriate means to deliver
services in light of fiscal restraints. The mandate of the review
team was not to make cuts, but rather to recommend opportunities
to redesign delivery so that appropriate services can be
provided. The team suggested that much of the targeted pending
reduction over the next two fiscal years can be accommodated
without a cut in service. The team suggested that could be
accomplished through reduced spending on certificates (or
referrals to the private bar) and with a reduction in
administrative costs and overheads.

The government's comprehensive strategy to address family
violence reached its first anniversary in September. The goal of
the multi-faceted program is to improve the justice system's
response to family violence through implementation of policies
and training for justice workers. Support services for victims
have also been enhanced in communities across Nova Scotia. More
than 2,200 justice workers will be trained as part of this
initiative, with a total of $500,000 provided to a number of
programs for victim support.

Nova Scotia's newest judge was appointed in October, 1996. Flora
Inglis Buchan became a judge of the Family Court in Halifax.
Judge Buchan is very active in the community, serving as a
director of the Nova Scotia Legal Aid Commission and as co-chair
of the gender equality committee of the Nova Scotia Barristers

During the course of the past year, we initiated a Summary
Offences Court in the Halifax area. It became operational in
April, and has been extremely successful. It diverts the summary
offence matters from the Provincial Court docket, so that the
more serious cases can be heard in a speedier manner.

The Adult Diversion Program has continued to prove its success
during the past year. Plans to expand the program across the
province are in place, and it is expected the expansion will take
place early in the new year. The program diverts relatively minor
cases from the criminal justice process after charges are laid,
but prior to a court appearance. The case is referred by police
to the probation officers, who then determine what steps can be
taken to resolve the matter. The process examines the needs of
victims and offenders by using various community resources to
satisfactorily resolve the damage caused by the offence. This can
include restitution, letters of apology, community service work
and counselling. Further efforts in the area of restorative
justice are planned for the coming year.

It has been an extremely active year at the department, we are
looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead, and hope that
the coming year is one of peace and prosperity.


trp                    Jan. 3, 1997 - 12:15 p.m.