Miscellaneous but important amendments, and the BC COVID-19 data leak
This week on Legally Speaking with Michael Mulligan:
Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Acts have, perhaps, the least exciting names imaginable.
Sometimes, however, these acts bundle together legal changes that can be significant.
If passes in BC, a recently introduced Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act will make changes that will have meaningful consequences for people.
On the show, two of these changes are discussed.
One of the proposed changes will require ICBC to withhold licence and insurance renewals for people with unpaid COVID related fines.
A similar approach is used in an attempt to collect other fines, and debts including child support payments.
The challenges with this approach include both the collections costs being transferred by the government to what is supposed to be an insurance company, and the fact that some people will respond by driving without insurance.
An alternative approach is discussed on the show: deducting unpaid COVID related fines from COVID relieve cheques that would otherwise be sent to people. This approach would work more reliably, save money, and avoid unintended consequences. Mailing people with unpaid fines $500 or $1,000 cheques and then trying to compel payment by withholding insurance doesn’t make much sense.
In addition, the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act further expands the definition of “family violence” in the BC Family Law Act.
This term has already been defined in a way that captures both actual violence, as well as things such as damage to property or the unreasonable restriction financial or personal autonomy. By defining a term, which has an ordinary English meaning, to include things that are not violence, needless litigation as resulted from people objecting to being labeled in this way.
Ensuing litigation has resulted in findings of “family violence” for things including the sending of an email threatening to close a dental practice, a father saying that a mother’s actions were “contrary to scripture and sinful” and a mother interfering with a father’s access to children.
Also on the show, the leak of COVID-19 information that the provincial government had been keeping secret is also discussed in the context of a decision to grant vaccine priority to judges and Crown Counsel in Vancouver without explanation for failing to do the same for other people working in the justice system including sheriffs, court clerks, defence counsel, and registry staff.
Based on a review of the COVID-19 report that was leaked, it would appear that the government decided to release information selectively in order to encourage safer behavior. Information concerning the specific location of outbreaks and specific data concerning vaccine distribution was not released to the public.
The trouble with this approach is that it undermines confidence in public health information and may cause long term harm by reducing the number or people will to be vaccinated.
In a democracy, there should be a very high threshold for keeping public information secret.