Andrew Parsons knows there are challenges within the justice system in this province, but he believes things can get better and he’s willing to listen and work with players who want to bring about change for the common good.
He’s not only interested in hearing concerns. He wants people with a vested interest to tell him what they think can be done or suggest different ways of handling challenges the department is facing.
Parsons, who is the province’s Minister of Justice and Public Safety, was the guest speaker for the Canadian Bar Association — Newfoundland and Labrador’s mid-winter conference luncheon Friday at Marble Mountain Resort.
Minister Parsons outlined a number of key developments the province is working on or about to implement to make things better when he chatted with members of the Canadian Bar Association — Newfoundland and Labrador in his upbeat speech at the luncheon.
Here is a list of some of the interesting things the province is doing that he believes will help make life better for all hands involved in the system:
1. The provincial government will host a third Justice Summit March 16 in Corner Brook for the primary purpose of having a chance to sit down with people involved in the criminal law system to hear their fears and concerns in the various segments of the system.
2. Bringing to fruition a new sex assault response pilot program, expected to be in place in June, is something the minister is excited about. The pilot program will see the provincial government provide free legal advice to victims of sexual assault. He said government is Working with community partners to ensure training is ongoing and an effort is underway to fill out a roster of lawyers willing to come on board to support the pilot program.
3. Introduction of a new recalculation clause for federal child support, announced earlier this week, is something Parsons admits wasn’t a decision that everybody was elated about, but he doesn’t really care about any negative backlash because he insists children need the support so he is all for the change.
4. A new drug treatment court is expected to be up and running by Sept. 1 of this year. The minister said details of where it would be located are still being discussed with some of the partners with a vested interest.
5. Over the next little while, the minister said there will be 39 new unified family court judge positions created and some of them are going to be in this province. “When we can get more judges here that’s not a bad thing,” he said.
6. Adult diversion is another issue the minister is happy to see movement on this year. He said there are great workers behind the walls of Her Majesty’s Penitentiary, but the infrastructure is terrible and the message was drove home to the minister when he reflects on the fact the largest institution in the system is described as Dickens-era it’s not a good scene. The argument he is making, he said, is government can keep building bigger facilities but what will be done to address the number of people going into them has to be addressed.