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Manitoba Justice

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A Brief History of Manitoba Justice

Making and enforcing the law is the essence of government. Therefore, the Department's core functions have existed since the creation of the province in 1870. The Department was originally known as the Department of the Attorney General. The name was changed to Department of Justice in 1989 to reflect the expanded role of the Department.

The Department of Justice has undergone many changes but the core duties of the Department flow from the Constitution Act, 1867, which assigned to the Federal Government jurisdiction over all criminal law while assigning to the provinces:

  • The administration of justice in the Province, including the constitution, maintenance, and organization of provincial courts, both of civil and criminal jurisdiction, and including b procedure in civil matters in those courts; and
  • The imposition of punishment, by fine, penalty, or imprisonment, for enforcing any law of the Province.

The Court of Queen's Bench was established in 1872. The Court decides all matters of controversy relating to property and civil rights and processes, and exercises all powers and authorities of a Superior Court. A Manitoba Court of Appeal was established in 1906 to hear appeals from all courts in Manitoba.

Amalgamation of the Court of Queen's Bench and the County Court occurred in 1984, which was also the year that the Family Division of the Court of Queen's Bench was established. Canada's first comprehensive Family Violence Court was established in September 1990.

The Department has not always been responsible for Corrections. Corrections was transferred out of the Department to the Department of Health and Social Development in 1970. In May of 1988 jurisdiction for Corrections and The Corrections Act (now known as The Correctional Services Act) was transferred back to the Department of the Attorney General.

The Department, over the years, has provided funding to a number of arm's length bodies including:

The Department has evolved rapidly in recent years in response to increased public awareness of legal rights. A significant landmark was the introduction of Legal Aid in 1972. The passage of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms affected the justice system profoundly and led to the creation of a Constitutional Law Branch.

The Department has pioneered innovative programs like the Maintenance Enforcement Program, the Family Violence Court, the Seizure and Impoundment of cars driven by suspended drivers, and the Community Notification Advisory Committee, all of which were the first of their kind in Canada and have been models for other provinces. The Department has also developed new administrative structures, most notably establishing the Public Trustee and Civil Legal Services as Special Operating Agencies.

As noted above, in the criminal justice system the Department has had a traditional responsibility for the provision of policing services, for the prosecution of offenders, and for the operation of Law Courts. However in recent years the Department has challenged itself to step beyond these traditional roles. We have pursued formation of partnerships with community groups, other Provincial Departments, and other levels of government, to find new ways to enhance public safety. Non-traditional initiatives include helping to address root causes of crime, promoting crime prevention activities, giving victims a greater voice in the criminal justice system, considering Aboriginal cultural values in our dealings with Aboriginal persons, and searching for new ways to motivate, encourage and support offenders to rehabilitate themselves.

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