Staffing cuts strain Justice Department

Confirms other reports (e.g., Justice Canada chops research budget by $1.2-million), and provides additional explanation for the large number of cases lost by the Government. An amusing, if sad, contrast between the comments of former officials and the everything is fine assurance from the political and bureaucratic levels:

Separately, in the Public Safety Department, lawyers were given just one week to draft a new law on parole, according to Mary Campbell, who retired last year from her job as the department’s director-general of the corrections and criminal justice directorate.

By her count, 30 bills on justice, sentencing and corrections are either currently before Parliament or were given royal assent in June. She likened the legislative development process to a sausage factory.

“When you’ve got a pace that says, ‘Keep the sausage machine going,’ you’re going to get errors,” she said in an interview.

Jason Tamming, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, said the government has passed more than 30 measures to get tough on crime. “Our Members of Parliament work very hard to pass the best legislation to keep our communities safe,” he said. “We expect our civil servants to do the same.”

The Justice Department, in an internal report on the criminal policy section released on its website, did not use the colourful language that Ms. Campbell did. But it spoke of lowered morale as research and statistics staff have been cut from 35 to 17, between 2008-09 and 2012-13. It said 81 per cent of the department’s lawyers said the quality of their work has suffered because of the short timelines they must meet.

However, when contacted directly, a Justice Department spokesperson said it is important to note that the criminal policy section is achieving its objectives and the government has a high degree of satisfaction with its work.

David Daubney, a former senior bureaucrat in the Justice Department who retired in 2011, said the purpose behind the research staffing cuts is obvious. “They don’t want to encumber their minds with the facts,” he said of the government. “We always at Justice prided ourselves as being ‘stewards of the criminal law.’ We were seen as the go-to place for the facts and research on criminal policy, justice and corrections. That’s certainly no longer the case.”

He said morale has dropped as advisers conclude the government doesn’t want their advice. At a recent retirement party, an assistant deputy minister he wouldn’t name “confirmed that they’re not bothering to put as much background data as they used to into anything going into the minister’s office or into memoranda to cabinet.”

In the 2010 C-37 Citizenship Act revisions, we only had three weeks to draft legislation which my staff and the lawyers were concerned about.

Not sure how much time was given to the drafting of the recent C-24 Citizenship Act comprehensive changes, but the Canadian Bar Association did comment on what they considered poor quality drafting (may be sniping between lawyers but I also found the changes hard to follow):

The government has an opportunity to improve the poor drafting in the current Act. However, Bill C-24 uses excessive cross-referencing within the Act and to previous citizenship legislation to the point of near incoherence. This results the legislation being inaccessible to the public as well as many public servants, politicians, lawyers, and judges, delayed processing times for citizenship applications and an increased backlog, and an increased burden on Canadian courts. Plain language drafting is in the interest of all parties.

Staffing cuts strain Justice Department – The Globe and Mail.