'Recruitment and retention crisis' leading to potential strike for New Brunswick Crown prosecutors

Province and prosecutors' union meeting for conciliation in mid-June

'Recruitment and retention crisis' leading to potential strike for New Brunswick Crown prosecutors
Shara Munn, New Brunswick Crown Prosecutors Association

The New Brunswick Crown Prosecutors Association (NBCPA) has the greenlight from its membership to strike if upcoming talks with the province fail to produce a resolution to their concerns about retention, recruitment, and the resulting overwhelming workload.

In a vote with a 100-percent participation rate, 99 percent of the province’s Crown prosecutors and family Crown counsel voted 99 percent in favour of striking if the talks break down. The NBCPA and the province will convene for a conciliation meeting on June 14 and 15.

“The issues that we have around recruitment and retention are just making workload unmanageable to the point that we're coming up against our professional obligations,” says NBCPA president Shara Munn.

The two sides have been in contract talks for over a year.

The prosecutors have long complained that they lacked to people and resources they required, says Munn. In 2023, the province announced 30.5 new positions, just over a 50-percent increase in personnel. However, she says, the government has failed to address the recruitment and retention problem. While the prosecution service recruited 20 people over the last year, they lost 20 others, 15 of whom were senior.

“Even though they announced these 30 positions a year ago, things have actually gotten worse, not better.”

On March 15, acting assistant deputy attorney general Brian Munn sent a “Capacity to prosecute” memo to all staff of the province’s public prosecution services. He said the service was contending with 20 vacancies and a “loss of prosecutorial experience across the organization.”

Their “file load exceeds the capacity of the current workforce,” said Brian Munn, causing them “to lose control of timelines established by the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Jordan, 2016 SCC 27.” Jordan established limits of 18 months for provincial court and 30 months for Superior Court trials. Delays exceeding those limits are a violation of the accused’s right to be tried within a reasonable time under s. 11(b).

Brian Munn said that “carrying the administration of justice on the backs of our prosecutors is not a viable long-term option,” and he suggested various policies and tools to help alleviate pressure that would maximize resources for indictable, serious, and violent offences. These include rigorously discharging discretion around pre-charge screening to control case volume and quality by ensuring only cases in the public interest with a reasonable prospect of conviction proceed.

He also suggested that prosecutors make reasonable efforts to resolve matters as early as possible and to exercise efficient case management.

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