Op-Ed: Justice and a culture of caring – EyeWitness News

Posted: January 21, 2021 at 3:21 pm

By Allyson Maynard-Gibson, QC

In the face of the pandemic, we have realized that we are in the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, since no one reaches salvation by themselves and no state can ensure the common good of its population if it remains isolated. His Holiness Pope Francis, A Culture of Care as a Path to Peace

Wednesday, January 13, 2021 was the legally mandated Opening of the Legal Year. The chief justice (Sir Brian Moree, QC), acknowledging that necessity is the mother of invention, presided over an historic Opening of the Legal Year, replete with many firsts. Many of us agree with the attorney general and president of the Bar, who expressed the hope that some of the firsts will continue in the future.

Five chief justices from the region brought greetings at the Opening. In making offers and suggestions of mutual assistance in pursuit of the common good, they, and Sir Brian, admit that no state can ensure the common good of its population if it remains isolated.

The reform and modernization leading to the overhaul of the court system agenda announced by the chief justice can only be successful if we, as Pope Francis said, realize that we are in the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together. Thus far, indications are positive.

The Integrated Court Management System (ICMS), when complete, will enable court processes from initiation to completion to be digitized, conducted online (including online payments) and provide important data for analysis of the effectiveness and efficiency of the administration of justice. This is not the first attempt to migrate to digital processes. Importantly, this attempt involves an attorney general committed to the process and who previously experienced, from a public-sector perspective, issues that prevent successful completion, including lack of resources. Thus, he is uniquely positioned to address those issues. It also involves a chief justice unequivocally committed to successful completion of the ICMS, including utilizing public and private-sector partnerships. Also, timing is impeccable as, post-COVID, sensible people realize that we are in the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented. This is the right moment to provide equal access to justice.

In 2020, scientists, including healthcare professionals, all over the world, collaborated to establish protection protocols, innovate, develop vaccines and hopefully conquer the adverse impact of the pandemic. As we in The Bahamas, and the world, adjust to a new normal, justice actors must also collaborate and innovate. This is the best way to protect fundamental rights and freedoms, attract investment and to provide access to justice.

Justice leaders acknowledge that the poorest and less-privileged among us are not having their justice issues resolved. This is as true in The Bahamas as elsewhere in the world. The reform and modernization agenda provides a unique opportunity for the attorney general and his colleagues to remove silos and integrate systems so that justice can roll on like a river.

Reliable and affordable (free, where necessary) internet service is necessary on every Island in The Bahamas. This is easy to accomplish and a good investment. The Bahamas is the first smart island in this hemisphere, as declared by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The ITU noted the thousands of miles of fiber-optic cable on the ocean floor and that The Bahamas accessibility to the internet is greater than which exists in the United States.

Integration across ministries to deliver justice, widely defined, should be the clarion call of 2021. Justice actors, acting on a culture of caring and using technology, can effect seismic change, including: world-class online learning (from pre-K to post-graduate); telehealth on each island (linked across The Bahamas and to international centers of excellence); construction of affordable smart homes for all income groups (enabling all children to have a roof over their heads and access to internet for education); rapid expansion of the use of government buildings, including use of administrators offices from which to provide government services to every Island; encouragement of alternative dispute resolution; and, utilizing the internet, locally providing access to every court. Integration across ministries is also necessary to provide other services, the delivery of which was promised in February.

In 2021, let us accept the challenge of the chief justice of Jamaica who encouraged us to look at courts as a service and not a place.

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Op-Ed: Justice and a culture of caring - EyeWitness News

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