VICTORIA - As the countdown to a new year begins, here are ten new or reformed laws that will help modernize the justice and public safety system for B.C. families:
1) Family Law Act - Regulation changes Nov. 26, 2012
Taking effect March 18, 2013, B.C.'s new Family Law Act replaces the Family Relations Act, legislation virtually unchanged since 1978. Regulation changes include the setting of minimum standards of training for mediators, parenting co-ordinators and arbitrators, all of which will be required to have in-depth training on how family violence impacts these processes. This landmark legislation is credited for bringing family law into the 21st century by putting children first and expressly stating that the best interests of the child must be the only consideration in making decisions involving the child.
2) Civil Resolution Tribunal Act - Passed May 30, 2012
The Civil Resolution Tribunal Act will establish the first-ever tribunal in Canada that offers a full array of online tools to allow British Columbians to solve common strata and small civil claims outside of the courts. Resolving a dispute through the tribunal is expected to take about 60 days, compared to 12 to 18 months for small claims court. This is another way the B.C. government is helping move cases out of the traditional courtroom to ease pressures on B.C.'s justice system.
3) Motor Vehicle Act - Amendments
Effective June 15, 2012, amendments to the immediate roadside prohibition program enhanced the fairness of the appeal process and preserved the tough, immediate sanctions first imposed in 2010 for drinking and driving. Over the past two years, B.C. has seen an unprecedented 46 per cent reduction in alcohol-related traffic fatalities, with an estimated 104 lives saved. As well, new helmet standards and seating requirements to protect motorcyclists and their passengers from and in crashes came into effect June 1.
4) Limitation Act - Passed April 26, 2012
B.C.'s new Limitation Act comes into effect June 1, 2013. It will change the amount of time people have to file civil lawsuits, making the law clearer and easier to understand. These changes are the result of significant consultation with the public, stakeholders and legal and local government representatives, and they will make B.C.'s law consistent with reforms in other Canadian provinces.
5) Criminal Asset Management Act - Effective Sept. 30, 2012
The Criminal Asset Management Act gives government the explicit authority to manage and dispose of property forfeited as a result of criminal prosecutions, or seized during an investigation in anticipation of forfeiture. This act helps to reduce the financial incentives associated with crime, deterring criminals and enhancing public safety in B.C. It also fulfils a commitment made by Premier Christy Clark as part of the Families First Agenda.
6) Metal Dealers and Recyclers Act - Effective July 23, 2012
The Metal Dealers and Recyclers Act fulfils a key commitment made in the throne speech. The new regulatory approach helps deter and track metal thieves, enhancing public safety particularly by reducing theft of copper telephone wire that interrupts 911 emergency service for families with land lines. This approach also minimizes regulatory costs for the recycling industry through a no-cost registration system, and protects the personal information of those who sell metal to scrap dealers.
7) Judicial Compensation Act - Amendments
Acting on a throne speech commitment, the B.C. government amended the Judicial Compensation Act to relax restrictions that limit the service time of senior part-time judges. This gives the chief judge flexibility to use senior part-time judges to fill in for judges who are sick or resign, or when there is a sudden influx of new cases, helping ease pressures on B.C.'s courts.
8) Offence Act - Amendments
Amendments to this act came into effect in June 2012 to give B.C.'s courts more flexibility to manage offenders convicted under provincial statutes. Amendments to the Offence Act expanded sentencing options by allowing the judges to impose probation orders that are better tailored to reflect the offence and the offenders' circumstances. This can help manage the behaviour of the offender in the community and enhance the rehabilitative aspects of sentencing.
9) Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act - Amendments
Amendments to the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act modernized the act and will help enhance the enforceability of family maintenance orders made in B.C., as well as B.C. orders sent to other jurisdictions for enforcement. Orders made under the act are enrolled in B.C.'s Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP). In 2011-12, FMEP had record-breaking collection numbers.
10) Legal Profession Act - Amendments
The Legal Profession Act amendments provide the Law Society of British Columbia, the body that regulates B.C.'s legal profession, with more authority to take measures to protect the public on occasions when substantiated complaints arise against lawyers. Expanding the Law Society's ability to suspend or disbar lawyers guilty of serious criminal offences will help protect the public interest.
Ministry of Justice resources: http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/legislation/resources.htm
Justice reform initiatives: http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/justice-reform-initiatives/index.htm
Progress of bills: http://www.leg.bc.ca/39th4th/votes/progress-of-bills.htm
Government Communications and Public Engagement
Ministry of Justice