Draft Supreme Court family rules

From Wally Oppal, QC, Attorney General of BC

The BC Justice Review Task Force (JRTF) has recently posted a concept draft of proposed new Supreme Court family rules for review and comment. Lawyers are invited to make submissions to the online forum, which can be found at: bcjusticereviewforum.ca.

The task force was established in March 2002 on the initiative of the Law Society to identify reforms to make the justice system more responsive, accessible and cost effective. The task force includes representatives from the judiciary, Law Society, Canadian Bar Association and Ministry of Attorney General. In 2003, the JRTF appointed the Family Justice Reform Working Group (FJRWG) to explore fundamental reforms to the family justice system.

The FJRWG released its report, A New Justice System for Families and Children, in May 2005. The report outlines a new vision for family law and touches on a range of family justice services and processes that are, or should be, available to people experiencing family breakdown. It makes 37 recommendations, including those related to the establishment of family justice “hubs,” consensual dispute resolution, rules and family court structure. Recommendations related to court rules include:

  • that rules and forms for family cases be simplified and streamlined to allow for expedited, economical resolution of all cases with processes proportional and appropriate to the value and importance of the case;
  • that every family law form and procedure be designed to be used and understood by an unrepresented litigant.

Following the release of the FJRWG’s report, the JRTF formed the family rules working group to draft new Supreme Court and Provincial Court family rules, under the direction of a steering committee made up of BC Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald Brenner, Chief Judge Hugh Stansfield, Deputy Attorney General Allan Seckel, QC, Justice Brian Joyce and Assistant Deputy Minister Jerry McHale, QC.

The proposed new Supreme Court family rules, which will be implemented along with new Supreme Court civil rules, will be available for Bar and public feedback until June 30, 2008.