OTTAWA — The COVID-19 pandemic appears set to force a modernization of Canada’s justice system.
Federal Justice Minister David Lametti has introduced a bill the government says will make targeted and permanent changes to the Criminal Code to give courts flexibility.
Among them are clarifying the law to allow the accused to appear remotely in certain criminal proceedings and providing for remote participation for jury selection.
The government says that even with the proposed changes, in-person proceedings would remain the norm, but the new provisions would ensure a remote approach remains an option.
Canada’s justice system was already wrestling with case backlogs in the courts when the pandemic hit last year, closing courthouses and pausing many trials.
Courts were forced to look at different ways of working and accelerate steps toward modernization that many felt were long overdue.