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Advisory Council on the Status of Women

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2004-08-31: Decision to Appoint Provincial Court Judge

Letter to the Editor
Submitted by Kirstin Lund, PEIACSW Chairperson
August 31, 2004

Many are asking questions about the government's recent decision to appoint a fourth provincial court judge. I would like to ask one more: Why have the Attorney General and Cabinet made this decision mere months before receiving recommendations that the Attorney General himself is waiting for from an ad hoc working group that he struck to focus on domestic violence?

This ad hoc group is chaired by the Deputy Attorney General, and, at the request of the Attorney General, one piece of the group's work has focused on the potential for a domestic violence court in PEI. The committee has been developing recommendations for over a year, and these are scheduled for completion in October. To this point in the work, which is at the stage of word-smithing recommendations, there has been absolutely no discussion of recommending the appointment of an additional judge.

Since the fall of 2003, a second, broader group has also been working specifically on the development of a domestic violence court process for PEI, and they are finalizing a set of recommendations that the Attorney General is also expecting this fall. This group, the Planning Group of the Justice Options for Women who are Victims of Violence Project, includes the Attorney General's own Senior Policy Advisor, two provincial court judges, the Crown Attorney's Office, Probation Services, the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women, and many others - all together, over 30 people representing community and government. At no time in the deliberations of this committee has there been any discussion about the need for a fourth provincial court judge.

In his follow-up comments to the announcement of this appointment, the Minister has referred to the Yukon Domestic Violence Court. Having researched the work being done in the Yukon, we know the domestic violence court there was created without the appointment of additional judges.

If the Attorney General wants to make family violence prevention a priority he should at least hear the recommendations of the dozens of people who have been working on this issue for the past year, many of whom are representing his Office.

At best, the Attorney General and Cabinet would listen to advocates who have been working on family violence prevention for the past several decades, who have at no time asked for an additional judge as a way to assist families experiencing violence. What we have asked for time and time again is direct services for families who are experiencing violence, including family law legal aid, treatment for abusers, and other desperately needed advocacy and financial support for women and their families.

Kirstin Lund is the chairperson of the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women

Related Links:

The Attorney General's August 25, 2004, press release

CBC report from August 26, 2004

CBC report from August 27, 2004, including an audio file of an interview with Attorney General Jamie Ballem

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