496 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 78 PART 4 JULY 2020
shifting day-to-day operations in a system under tremendous pressure.
Moreover, her energy, empathy and flexibility inspired the court’s judicial
officers and staff to approach working remotely in novel circumstances in a
Chief Judge Gillespie urged government to move quickly to facilitate the
court’s plans to expand its technological capacity to work remotely as well
as in courtrooms equipped to prevent contagion. Forward-thinking, she is
determined to ensure that technological and other advances made during
the pandemic be fine-tuned and retained afterwards. At the same time, she
recognizes the digital divide and the need for “the people’s court” to continue
to serve those for whom high-tech solutions may constitute a barrier.
She has demonstrated decisiveness, determination and grace as the court
faces the challenges posed by the pandemic—maximizing the services it
can provide while safeguarding public health. With the support of her executive
team, Chief Judge Gillespie has had the courage to make difficult decisions
at the rapid pace changing circumstances demand.
The Chief Judge of the B.C. Provincial Court leads about 180 judicial officers
(full- and part-time judges and judicial justices) and the staff supporting
them. The court handles about 195,000 new files each year in more than
80 court locations and operates circuit courts in remote areas of B.C. as well
as specialized therapeutic courts.
As a result of her work with stakeholders including Crown counsel, the
Court Services Branch and Legal Aid BC, the court’s Justice Centre has
become an independent Provincial Court location with a fully operating
registry, where Crown and duty counsel take part in evening and weekend
bail hearings from around the province, improving access to justice for people
charged with criminal offences after hours.
Even before the coronavirus focused attention on remote hearings, Chief
Judge Gillespie was continuing the court’s work to improve access to justice
by expanding videoconferencing capacity in remote areas of the province.
She has also continued the work of former Chief Judge Crabtree in engaging
with and supporting communities wishing to establish Indigenous
courts. The opening of a new Indigenous court in Williams Lake was
planned this spring but postponed due to COVID-19. Her frequent travel
around the province to sit and meet with local bar and other groups has
included visits to Hazelton, Port Alberni and Port Hardy for discussions
about opening Indigenous courts.
Dedicated to demystifying the justice system through public outreach
and online communication, Chief Judge Gillespie maintains a busy public
speaking schedule and has continued the court’s plain-language website, bi-