The coronavirus pandemic: an opportunity for digital transformation for the justice system?
Law

The coronavirus pandemic: an opportunity for digital transformation for the justice system?


The coronavirus pandemic: an opportunity for digital transformation for the justice system?

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While technology is an integral part of our lives, the justice system has struggled for several years to integrate it into its practices. Aware of this situation, the Quebec government had launched a modernization project in 2018.

This technological shift therefore started 2 years ago, but such changes cannot happen overnight. Let us not forget that not too long ago the clerks did not systematically work with computers, the files were transported from one room to another and the accused, detained or not, as well as the witnesses were obliged to appear in person in the courtrooms.

However, the state of health emergency in which we currently live has made it possible to explore new ways of doing things. “The current context is an opportunity for us to put pressure on the accelerator, to go faster,” explains Me Alex Pothier, spokesperson for the Department of Justice.

Jurisprudence according to this new reality

While at the beginning of 2020 some judges refused to use videoconferencing to avoid the displacement of witnesses living in remote regions in Quebec (Hudon), rebate requests are now rejected since this technology can be used (Fountain).

A first virtual family law trial also took place in the district of Trois-Rivières, during which each of the parties was at his home or office. Youth law hearings were also held virtually in the Quebec City district.

In addition, in arbitration, certain arbitrators are also inclined to use technological tools in order to proceed in files, such as conference calls or videoconferences (TVA Group Inc.).

Electronic procedures

On March 27, a decree from the Chief Justice of Quebec and the Minister of Justice enabled the bailiffs to serve a procedural document by technological means. Concretely, this means that, rather than receiving a judicial proceeding by a bailiff at the bottom of your door, you could receive it by email.

In addition, some courts that had undertaken digital transformation projects are now accelerating their deployment to make life easier for litigants in this period of crisis. This is the case of the Quebec Court of Appeal, which launched a pilot project on April 9 to file applications for leave to appeal in civil matters.

Is this just the beginning?

A question arises: upon returning to “normal life”, will the judicial system continue to use technological means?

Several speakers wanted it, while others raised some concerns about the use of these tools: we raised various technical problems, related to sound or recordings, for example, as well as fears regarding the evaluation of the credibility of witnesses or the use of paper evidence.

Many questions and adaptations are to be expected. However, this pandemic, which has brought many upheavals with it, can perhaps become an important lever to bring our justice system to the modern era?

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References

  • R. v. Hudon (C.Q., 2020-01-31), 2020 QCCQ 1099, SOQUIJ AZ-51677242.
  • R. v. Fountain (C.Q., 2020-03-25), 2020 QCCQ 1232, SOQUIJ AZ-51679875. As of the date of broadcast, the decision had not been appealed.
  • TVA Group Inc. and Union of TVA Employees, Local 687, CUPE (union grievance), (T.A., 2020-03-24), 2020 QCTA 178, SOQUIJ AZ-51681226. As of the date of broadcast, the decision had not been the subject of an appeal for judicial review.
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