Justice Efficiencies and
Access to the Justice System

Backgrounder: The Steering Committee on Justice Efficiencies and Access to the Justice System

With cases becoming increasingly complex and prosecutions ever more sophisticated, Canada's criminal justice system faces new challenges to ensure it remains fair, efficient and responsive to Canadians.

Consequently, federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) Ministers responsible for Justice (Ministers) and the judiciary agreed, in 2003, that some of the major participants in the justice system should work together to recommend solutions to problems relating to the efficient and effective operation of the system, without compromising its fundamental values. Solutions may include the implementation of best practices as well as legislative amendments. The Steering Committee on Justice Efficiencies and Access to the Justice System was specifically created to engage in this work.

MANDATE

Generally, the Committee examines issues related to justice efficiencies and access to the criminal justice system that are systemic and national and that may affect the justice system in a significant manner. The Committee may choose to examine broad areas for reform as well as more focused specific issues.

All Steering Committee members may suggest topics for Committee consideration, although the Committee as a whole determines whether an issue will be examined.

The Steering Committee then examines identified issues and, in so doing, may consult with other forums or criminal justice system stakeholders. The Steering Committee may decide to refer certain issues to other forums. It may also examine issues identified by the Criminal Justice Symposium as well as use this forum as a sounding board.

Recommendations and reports prepared by the Steering Committee are submitted to FPT Deputy Ministers and, upon approval, to Ministers.

MEMBERSHIP

The Steering Committee is composed of six federal and provincial deputy ministers responsible for Justice, three representatives from the Canadian Judicial Council, three representatives from the Canadian Council of Chief Judges, one representative from the Canadian Bar Association, one representative from the Barreau du Québec, one representative from the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, and two representatives from the police community for a total of seventeen members.

Committee members' appointments are not permanent and change from time to time to preserve vitality, encourage new ideas, and ensure continued and dynamic participation by members.

All Committee members take an active role in Committee meetings and ensure the advancement of projects and initiatives between meetings.

Committee members often regroup into sub-committees to examine issues to be addressed. A member is appointed to preside over the sub-committee. That member prepares the work plan, sets deadlines and ensures that the work progresses efficiently. Sub committees are encouraged, where appropriate, to include resource persons or experts to assist the sub-committee's work.

MEETINGS

The Department of Justice Canada provides administrative support to the plenary work of the Committee and, in particular, is responsible for organizing plenary meetings, including the preparation of agendas.

The Committee usually holds three plenary meetings per year: in the winter, spring and fall. This can vary depending on the Committee's workload and the number and nature of issues that are ready for discussion. The representative of the Department of Justice Canada is the informal chair of Committee meetings and is generally assisted by a facilitator.

REPORTS PUBLISHED BY THE COMMITTEE

To date, four of the Steering Committee's reports have been publicly released:

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