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Traffic court changes compromise civil liberties

EDMONTON, AB (April 10, 2014): Justice Minister Jonathan Denis’ proposed changes to Alberta’s traffic court system would take away Albertans’ basic rights and hurt access to fair and equal justice, Wildrose Justice Critic Shayne Saskiw said today. Recently, Alberta Justice released a document titled “Alberta’s Traffic Court Reform Initiative,” detailing a series of proposed changes to Alberta’s traffic court system. Among the various changes, citizens hoping to challenge a traffic violation would no longer have the right to appear before a court of law. Instead, they would appear before a government-appointed adjudicator. The reforms would also remove a citizen’s right to cross-examine accusers and witnesses, and produce evidence. Saskiw called the plan an attack on Albertans’ basic civil liberties. “Every Albertan has the right to be heard, if the state has accused them of a traffic crime and they want to protest the charge,” Saskiw said. “From eliminating a citizen’s right to trial to removing a citizen’s right to face his or her accuser, these proposed changes gut our civil liberties. We should always be looking to find efficiencies in our court systems, but such changes cannot cost us our basic, fundamental legal rights.” Stakeholder groups from across the province have publically opposed these changes, saying they would deny the right to fair and equal justice and trample the civil rights of Albertans. “Every Albertan accused of a traffic offence deserves to have their day in court, if they want it,” Saskiw said. “Both sides should be presented in a fair and equal way, before a court – which is bound by strict rules of evidence and procedure. The Justice Minister needs to start listening to Albertans and legal experts and abandon his plan today.”