Kevin Waugh (Saskatoon—Grasswood)
Mr. Speaker, on May 11, I asked the justice minister to explain her failure to fill judicial vacancies in this country, and I mentioned how this unacceptable shortage of judicial appointments has led to a situation in which many Canadians are denied access to the justice they dearly deserve.
I will remind the minister of the struggles currently being faced by the family of Dwayne Demkiw. They live in my riding of Saskatoon—Grasswood. Their son, Dwayne Demkiw, was murdered on May 31, 2015. His remains were discovered on April 5, 2016, but his accused murderer is not scheduled to stand trial until 2019. It is unacceptable that Dwayne’s family will wait nearly four years, from the time of their son’s disappearance until 2019, in order to see some semblance of justice for the loved one they have lost. It is a tragic burden on the victim’s family, a burden they should never have been forced to bear, and yet the Liberal government is not doing anywhere near enough to address this problem and remedy the injustices suffered by the Demkiw family.
Alberta, where the trial is scheduled to take place, currently ranks among the top provinces in the country, with some of the highest numbers of judicial vacancies. As of June 1, there are eight vacancies in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench alone. Across Canada, there are 57 judicial vacancies that have not been filled. Those vacancies translate into a delayed justice system, which only intensifies the hurt felt by the victims of crime, such as the Demkiw family. As a result, the rights of victims and their families are brushed aside and negatively impacted due to the failure of the justice minister to deliver an effective, efficient, and compassionate justice system to Canadians.
Delays in our justice system provide no closure for victims and their families, and do nothing to improve the lowered confidence that Canadians have in this system. No one benefits from this except the accused.
The Supreme Court of Canada acknowledges that unreasonable delays in the justice system are severely harmful for Canadians, so it set the Jordan decision as the guiding ruling for trial deadlines.
Despite these rules, despite the decision from the Supreme Court that delayed justice is unacceptable, the Liberal government continues to ignore this problem by appointing fewer judges to handle trials and other cases before the courts. It has failed. The government has had plenty of time to address this issue, two and a half years, to be exact, and it has had plenty of time to fill these judicial vacancies.
The Demkiw family is living a nightmare. They are constantly in my office in Saskatoon. They have had to take on enormous expense in order to cope with this terrible tragedy. They have had to take time from work to travel frequently between Saskatoon and Edmonton, and of course they are trying to support Dwayne Demkiw’s youngest son.
I want to ask the minister once again, why has the government done so little to fill judicial vacancies at such a late stage in its mandate, two and a half years?
Kevin Waugh (Saskatoon—Grasswood)
Mr. Speaker, that does not answer for the vacancies in Alberta, and 57 in this country. Two of our colleagues held a news conference in Calgary in April, the members for Calgary Nose Hill and St. Albert—Edmonton. Funny, because after the news conference, about judicial vacancies in Alberta, the next day they appointed one. Within a week to two weeks, five more were appointed in Alberta.
Do we have to have news conferences every week in the province of Alberta for the government to fill the eight vacancies they currently have?