EDMONTON – Alberta’s largest union is applauding the appointment of five provincial court judges, in addition to the 40 new court clerks hired recently, and remains optimistic that more will be done to alleviate the heavy workloads burdening staff who keep the justice system moving.
Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley announced Tuesday that four new provincial court judge positions have been created — one each in Grande Prairie and Wetaskiwin, along with one in Edmonton civil court and one in Edmonton criminal court. A fifth judge was appointed to fill a vacancy in Peace River.
That brings to 15 the number of provincial court judges appointed in Alberta over the past two years, which has helped relieve some of the pressures faced by staff working in the system, said Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) Vice-President James Hart.
“This is an important step toward easing backlogs in courthouses across Alberta. Staff within the justice system, including court clerks and Crown prosecutors, continue to struggle under a workload that isn’t letting up,” Hart said.
Pressure on Crown prosecutors has become especially acute as a result of the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2016 Jordan decision, which says that people accused of crimes have the right to trial within 18 months in provincial courts and within 30 months for superior courts.
Those pressures then flow to other staff within the system.
In particular, Hart noted that court clerks have been experiencing tough working conditions for several years with only some relief. Last year, Edmonton court clerks filed 35 workload grievances to protest their working conditions.
In response, the Alberta government included funding in its 2018 budget to fill 55 court clerk positions. So far, 40 positions have been filled.
“Court clerks are an integral part of the justice system. Without them, the entire system slows down,” Hart said. “The same goes for Crown prosecutors. We know filling vacancies in the Crown Prosecution Service has been a challenge, but the government must do everything it can to fill those roles.
“The system can only work when it is adequately resourced and supported.”
AUPE represents 93,000 members across the province, including approximately 600 court clerks.
For more information:
Mariam Ibrahim, AUPE Communications Officer: 780-930-5218