Canada’s Black Justice Strategy: Frequently Asked Questions

This webpage contains answers to frequently asked questions on the development of Canada’s Black Justice Strategy (the Strategy).

For additional questions or comments, please contact CBJS-SCJN@justice.gc.ca. Media enquiries must be submitted to media@justice.gc.ca.

  • What is Canada’s Black Justice Strategy and what will it contain?

    The Strategy will identify concrete ways to address the anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination that has led to the overrepresentation of Black people in the criminal justice system, including as victims of crime, as well as actions to reform and modernize the criminal justice system, to ensure that all people in Canada have access to equal treatment before and under the law.

    Recommendations for concrete actions will be provided to Justice Canada by the external Steering Group in their Final Strategy Report, which will be informed by consultations and engagements with Black communities across Canada, as well as other experts, community leaders, and earlier studies and reports.

    The work of the Steering Group is based on an intersectional, anti-racism, and anti-oppression approach that responds to the diverse histories, backgrounds, experiences and regional realities of Black communities in Canada.

  • Why do we need Canada’s Black Justice Strategy?

    In December 2021, the Prime Minister tasked the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada to develop the Strategy with the support of the Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion, and in consultation and cooperation with provinces, territories and Black communities. The Strategy will aim to address the overrepresentation of Black people in the criminal justice system, including as victims of crime.

    Black people continue to suffer from inequalities and the intergenerational legacy of trauma caused by anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination. Many people within Black communities have worked hard to address challenges in areas including poverty, mental health, education, housing, employment, and to receive supports as victims and others involved in the criminal justice system. The contributions of Black communities are essential to supporting both individuals and communities and in ending anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination. For decades, Black communities have been calling on governments to support their efforts to respond to the impact of these realities.

    Progress to date

    In response to communities’ calls for reform, as well as the murder of a Black man, George Floyd from Minnesota, United States by police in May 2020, some provincial, territorial and municipal governments have already initiated work to combat anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination. This work includes the creation of Anti-Black Racism directorates, declarations, working groups, and strategies. At the federal level in Canada, this included the development of Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy and major investment to support its implementation, as well as significant investments in programs and initiatives to support racialized communities. Despite this work, the Government of Canada recognizes that more needs to be done to address overrepresentation.

    International commitments

    Beyond Canada, the United Nations has recognized the need for countries to address the distinct legacy of slavery and colonization and the ongoing impact on Black people whose human rights must be promoted and protected. In 2013, the United Nations declared 2015 to 2024 as the International Decade for People of African Descent. The International Decade provides an important framework—organized around three pillars of Recognition, Justice and Development—to address the most pressing issues affecting Black communities around the world, including in Canada. This means taking action on the issues that affect people of African descent in Canada, including improving research and data collection and confronting the overrepresentation of Black people in the criminal justice system, including as victims of crime.

    In August 2016, at the invitation of the Government of Canada, the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent visited Canada on a mission to examine the situation of Black people in this country. At the conclusion of their mission, the three-member United Nations delegation submitted the 2017 Report of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent on its mission to Canada, presenting recommendations to assist Canada in its efforts to combat all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, Afrophobia and related intolerance. This report motivated the Government of Canada to look for solutions to fundamental issues faced by Black people in Canada concerning systemic racism, and the overrepresentation of Black people in the criminal justice system, including as victims of crime. One of the recommendations in the report was for the Government of Canada to develop a justice strategy to address the overrepresentation of Black people in the criminal justice system.

    Bringing transformational change

    The Mandate letter commitment responds to calls to action from Black communities and the recommendation in the 2017 UN Report. Justice Canada is now working to address anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination by developing the Strategy, with an external Steering Group of experts and leaders from Black communities across Canada. Other federal government departments and agencies are also working on initiatives in their areas of responsibility.

    Black communities rightfully expect transformational change to address longstanding systemic discrimination so they can fully realize their constitutionally protected rights.

  • Why are Black people overrepresented in Canada’s criminal justice system?

    Black people in Canada experience barriers and unequal outcomes caused by anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination in many areas of society. They experience disproportionately negative treatment by the police and in other areas of the criminal justice system.

    There are many factors that contribute to Black people’s experiences with the criminal justice system, such as income, employment, housing, education and health. Where data is available, research shows that Black people frequently fare poorly in those areas compared to the rest of the population, with lower-than-average incomes, higher rates of unemployment, less access to safe and stable housing, poorer educational outcomes in Canadian schools, and poorer health and mental health outcomes.

    In a landmark court case in 2014, Robert Wright pioneered the use of Impact of Race and Culture Assessment (IRCA) reports to highlight the impact of anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination on accused persons before the courts. In recent years, two Canadian courts of appeal—Nova Scotia in R v. Anderson and Ontario in R v. Morris—have accepted the importance of IRCAs in considering cases before them involving a Black person who is accused. The Court in Morris noted that “It is beyond doubt that anti-Black racism, including both overt and systemic anti-Black racism, has been, and continues to be, a reality in Canadian society…”

    Beyond supporting the use of IRCAs in the Canadian justice system, there is much more to do to address anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination in our society as a whole. Canada’s Black Justice Strategy will seek to address the gaps and barriers that exist in the criminal justice system to ensure that Black people across Canada have access to equal treatment before and under the law.

  • How will the Government ensure that Canada’s Black Justice Strategy responds to the needs of Black people in Canada?

    It is critical that the Strategy be grounded in the diverse histories, backgrounds, lived experiences and regional realities of Black communities in Canada.

    The external Steering Group, who will provide recommendations on the Strategy, is comprised of nine experts and leaders from Black communities across Canada, with diverse backgrounds and experiences, and with expertise related to Canada’s justice system.

    The Steering Group’s work will be based on an intersectional, anti-racism, and anti-oppression approach. The Steering Group has developed the Framework, a document to guide consultations and engagements on the Strategy. The Framework informed consultations and engagements conducted by 12 Black-led community-based organizations across Canada, as well as an online survey led by Justice Canada for people who were unable to participate in community engagement. These consultations and engagements, as well as discussions with other experts and community leaders, will inform the recommendations the Steering Group will provide to Justice Canada in their Final Strategy Report.

  • How are Black communities contributing to the development of Canada’s Black Justice Strategy?

    Members of Black communities from various backgrounds were included in the process through the consultations and engagements conducted by Black-led community-based organizations.

    For Black people of all ages living in Canada who were unable to participate in community engagement, as well as for representatives of organizations that provide justice-related services and supports to Black communities in Canada, Justice Canada also launched an online survey.

    Consultations and engagements were extended from the end of September 2023 to the end of October 2023, to provide more opportunities for members of Black communities to contribute to the development of the Strategy. The adjustment made to the timeline significantly enhanced the ability of community-based organizations to engage with community members and additional partners. For more information on consultation and engagement activities, please consult the Consultations and Engagements page.

  • How will the Government of Canada and the external Steering Group report on the consultations and engagements?

    Each community-based organization leading consultations and engagements delivered a summary report on what was shared to the Steering Group. Justice Canada also shared the results of the online survey with the Steering Group.

    Using the summary reports provided by these organizations and the results of the online survey, the external Steering Group will develop a Final Strategy Report with recommendations on concrete actions to address the overrepresentation of Black people in the criminal justice system, including as victims of crime.

    The Steering Group’s Final Strategy Report will be made available on Justice Canada’s website as soon as possible after it is received.

  • When will Canada’s Black Justice Strategy be released?

    The Strategy has two parts: the Final Strategy Report and the Implementation Plan.

    The external Steering Group will present its recommendations in the form of a Final Strategy Report to Justice Canada in March 2024. The Final Strategy Report will be published on Justice Canada’s website as soon as possible after it is received.

    Justice Canada will then develop an Implementation Plan in response to the recommended measures presented in the Steering Group’s Final Strategy Report. The goal is to release the Implementation Plan in 2024.

  • What will the Strategy mean for Canada’s future?

    The development of Canada’s Black Justice Strategy is an acknowledgment of the deeply rooted anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination that contributes to negative experiences and outcomes for Black people in the Canadian criminal justice system, which result in their overrepresentation, including as victims of crime.

    The Strategy will aim to ensure equal treatment for all people in Canada by confronting anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination. The successful implementation of the Strategy could help increase confidence that the justice system is fair and equal for all people in Canada.

    What this ultimately means for Canada’s future is that we are creating a roadmap for the removal of barriers to the full inclusion of racialized and marginalized groups within the justice system, an integral part of our society. This Strategy would make Canada a leader on the global stage in ensuring equal rights for Black people within democratic societies. This means better outcomes and opportunities for Black people, and a fair and equal society for all. Everyone in Canada has a stake in moving the Strategy forward.