Justice ministers gather to discuss court delays

Provincial and territorial justice ministers are gathering in Gatineau, Quebec Friday for an emergency meeting with their federal counterpart to discuss how to tackle delays in the criminal courts.

It is not a new problem, but finding a solution has become more urgent.

The Supreme Court of Canada issued a groundbreaking decision last summer that set out new guidelines for determining whether there has been an unreasonable delay in a criminal trial.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms says someone charged with an offence has the right to have their case tried within a reasonable amount of time.

In a 5-4 decision, the high court defined that period as 18 months for provincial courts and 30 months for superior courts, citing a "culture of complacency" for contributing to delays.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has given federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould a mandate to work with the provinces and territories "to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system."

Some provinces are urging the federal Liberals to change the Criminal Code to either curtail or eliminate the use of preliminary inquiries, which take place in certain serious cases to determine if there is enough evidence for a matter to go to trial.

But the Canadian Bar Association opposes doing away with preliminary hearings.