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NEWS RELEASE · 14th May 2010
Ministry of Attorney General
Western justice ministers will continue to work proactively with the federal government to protect the public from high-risk, serious youth offenders and for improved federal legislation, British Columbia Attorney General and Solicitor General Michael de Jong, QC, said today on behalf of his western provincial colleagues.

British Columbia hosted the May 13-14 Vancouver meeting of attorneys general and solicitors general from B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta. The ministers acknowledged the positive response from the federal government to public safety concerns. They include Bill C-14, which targets organized crime by establishing new offences for activities such as drive-by shootings, and Bill C-25, which places a cap on credit for time served prior to sentencing.

"Among other initiatives, we want to ensure high-risk, serious young offenders can be kept in pre-trial or sentenced custody as appropriate," de Jong said. "We are also concerned proposed amendments to the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) might make it virtually impossible for courts to impose an adult sentence on a violent youth. We are concerned about passage of the bill in its current form, as it doesn't meet our shared objectives to reform the YCJA. We will be expressing our concerns directly to the federal government and have asked for further consultations prior to the bill's enactment."

The provinces remain committed to urging the federal government to adopt improved wiretap and lawful access legislation that encompasses current technologies, essential to the investigation of organized crime and other serious and violent offences. Western ministers also reiterated the pressing need to continue to fast-track reforms on bail and disclosure to improve the efficiency of the justice system and increase public confidence. Western ministers expressed support for quick passage of amendments to the Sex Offender Information Registry Act and legislation to address organized crime's involvement in the drug trade, as they urged in a joint letter last September.

"Western Canada was established on the principle of the rule of law," de Jong said. "We must continue to work diligently to uphold the public trust by making the justice system as effective as possible."

The ministers expressed a willingness to explore ways to encourage greater public access to information about court processes and public engagement in the judicial appointment process. It is hoped this will lead to improved public understanding and confidence in the justice system.

Western ministers were updated on the progress and success to date of provincial strategies and legislation to combat gangs, illegal use of guns and organized crime. Action has been taken by western provinces on a number of issues, including more police and prosecutors, support for integrated law enforcement units targeting serious and organized crime and programs to help children and families from becoming involved in gangs. A range of legislative responses by various provinces dealing with civil forfeiture of proceeds of crime, safe communities, outlawing body armour, armoured vehicles and requiring reporting by health authorities of gunshot and stab wounds to police have also been enacted.