June 2, 2009
FREDERICTON (CNB) - A pilot project for the family division of the Court of Queen's Bench will be among the priorities of a committee established to implement the recommendations of the Access to Family Justice Task Force, Justice and Consumer Affairs Minister T.J. Burke announced today.
"I am pleased to have received a report that clearly addresses the challenges and structural issues faced by our family court system," said Burke. "We will fulfil our throne speech commitment by moving immediately into the implementation stage. With the input of stakeholders and the judges of the family division of the Court of Queen's Bench we will work toward an improved system that focuses on positive outcomes, with special emphasis on the well-being of children."
Burke announced that he will form an implementation committee consisting of government officials with policy and operational expertise. The implementation committee will be responsible for carrying out discussions with key stakeholders and judges of the family division to canvass their views on the recommendations, in particular those related to the adoption of an alternative model for the Court of Queen's Bench, family division, based on an existing model in Ottawa. The committee will also focus on the development of new rules of court and legislative changes to support an improved service delivery model for the family division, which will be piloted in the fall of 2009.
"We are pleased that the minister is acting quickly to get the reform process underway, and he has our full support," said Justice Raymond Guerette, chair of the task force. "New Brunswick has a unique opportunity to create a new family court process that can reduce the adversarial nature of its proceedings and help families resolve their disputes in a more positive and productive fashion. Our recommendations place dispute resolution resources at the front end of the judicial system so that litigants may avail themselves of the help that is offered, without the necessity of going all the way to court."
The report outlines 50 recommendations examining three areas for improvement: operations; legislation and rules of court in relation to family division matters; and education and information.
The report recommends an alternative model for the family division, based on the Ottawa family case management model, in which all cases entering the judicial system would first appear before a quasi-judicial official appointed under the Judicature Act. This official, referred to in the Ottawa model as a family case management master, would then determine the appropriate services and immediate remedies required.
"I want to take this opportunity to commend the chair of the task force, Justice Raymond Guerette, and the rest of the team for their diligent work on this comprehensive report," said Burke. "The recommendations set out by Justice Guerette and the task force will provide us with the proper direction. I look forward to their continued support and advice as we move toward improving the family justice system for all New Brunswickers."
Burke announced the appointment of the seven-member task force in February 2008. Led by Guerette, it included Michelle Boudreau-Dumas, from Campbellton; Sheila Cameron, from Moncton; Jennifer Donovan, from Fredericton; Mary-Eileen Flanagan, from Saint John; David Lutz, from Hampton; and Brenda Noble, from Saint John.
The report is available online.
MEDIA CONTACT: Elaine Bell, communications, Department of Justice and Consumer Affairs, 506-453-6543.