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New Brunswick working to address new child protection case rules

Social Development Minister Dorothy Shephard has introduced legislation to extend the allowable timelines for custody and guardianship cases. (Jacques Poitras/CBC - image credit)
Social Development Minister Dorothy Shephard has introduced legislation to extend the allowable timelines for custody and guardianship cases. (Jacques Poitras/CBC - image credit)

The Higgs government is moving to address new rules for child protection cases that have led to major delays in cases before the Court of King's Bench.

Chief Justice Tracey DeWare issued a directive last month requiring the courts to make child protection cases a priority because they weren't being heard within the 30 days required under provincial law.

She instructed the courts to postpone dozens of other pending cases to ensure they complied with the time limit.

DeWare issued the directive after the New Brunswick Court of Appeal ruled that a case that missed the 30-day limit order was "symptomatic of a larger problem" and non-compliance with the act was "endemic."

Now Social Development Minister Dorothy Shephard has introduced legislation to extend the allowable timelines.

Custody cases will have to be heard within 90 days instead of 30 and guardianship cases within six months instead of 30 days.

CBC
CBC

"We are moving this forward so that new cases coming forward will respect the new timelines, while we are as quickly as possible cleaning up the older ones," she said.

The bill is expected to pass and get royal assent by Christmas, and will apply to any new cases that reach the courts at that point.

Shephard said the new timelines are already in the new Child and Youth Wellbeing Act that the government passed in June and that will eventually replace child protection provisions in the Family Services Act.

But because that major piece of legislation hasn't been proclaimed into law yet, the government will amend the existing statute to address the issue quickly.

"Cases are very complex now and this gives a timeline that social workers, the Crown, legal aid, can all work [with] to prepare the proper cases that are needed to be presented to the judges so that good decisions are made," Shepard said.