Crown prosecutors vote to strike citing ‘crisis’ in province’s criminal justice system

'Recruitment and retention problems are putting our justice system at risk'

Crown prosecutors vote to strike citing ‘crisis’ in province’s criminal justice system

Crown prosecutors and family court Crown counsel in New Brunswick voted 99 percent in favor of strike action, it was announced Monday.

The vote came after more than a year of contract talks with N.B government as the “crisis” facing the province’s criminal justice system worsens, the New Brunswick Crown Prosecutors Association said in a press release.

Lawyers voted 99 percent in favour of strike action, citing persistent recruitment and retention issues as the main reasons for the strike.

“Recruitment and retention problems are putting our justice system at risk. We don’t have enough prosecutors or supports to do our jobs,” said New Brunswick Crown Prosecutor President Shara Munn.

 “We are dedicated professionals who handle heart-wrenching cases while being crushed under heavy workloads. We’re committed to making sure New Brunswickers have the justice system they deserve. But if the government doesn’t work with us to fix this crisis, more experienced prosecutors will leave and the crisis will get even worse. Community public safety could be put at risk.”

Crown counsel left with ‘no choice’ but to strike

Munn referenced negotiation talks that “dragged on” while prosecutors’ jobs got more difficult, and called on the government to live up to promises.

“We are disheartened this crisis has been allowed to get so bad. It’s especially disappointing that a government that talks so much about being tough on crime; has failed to work with us to strengthen our crumbling justice system,” Munn stated.

However, the Department of Justice and Public Safety contends that prosecutors are not yet at a point where a legal strike vote can be taken.

"The parties have not yet exhausted the collective bargaining process under the Public Service Labour Relations Act," spokesperson Alycia Bartlett said in an email to CBC. "Government remains in active bargaining."

A conciliation meeting is scheduled for June 14-15, CBC reported.

Vacancies remain unfilled after increase in Crown counsel positions

Last year the government added 30 new prosecutor positions as part of its budget, which at the time Munn said was acknowledgement of the problem but lacked clarity, CBC reported.

Prosecutors and family counsel are looking to government to fulfill commitments to public safety by pursuing productive negotiations to offer solutions to retention and recruitment problems, Munn said.

"We're committed to making sure New Brunswickers have the justice system they deserve. But if the government doesn't work with us to fix this crisis, more experienced prosecutors will leave, and the crisis will get even worse. Community public safety could be put at risk," said Munn.

“Crown Prosecutors and Family Crown Counsel want to reach a fair deal. We are standing up for the safety of New Brunswickers. The ball is now in the government’s court to come to the table and work with us in good faith on real solutions.”

 

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