How we’re transforming the criminal justice system

Through a process of ongoing review, we’re working on transforming Canada’s criminal justice system. The Department of Justice is examining ways to improve and modernize the system, working together with other federal departments and levels of government to find integrated solutions and improve outcomes for people involved, or at risk of becoming involved in the criminal justice system.

We have conducted extensive research and consulted with Canadians, including with criminal law experts and other stakeholders. We have used the findings to bring forward transformative initiatives that work to modernize our criminal justice system. For example, we have brought forward proposed legislation to:

We have also passed legislation to:

Guiding Principles

Transforming the criminal justice system focuses on four main pillars.

Safety for Canadians

Canadians expect their criminal justice system to keep them safe while protecting individual rights and freedoms. Victims need more opportunities for meaningful engagement throughout the criminal justice system and to be treated with compassion and respect. Offenders need to be held accountable and be prepared to successfully reintegrate into society once they leave the criminal justice system.

Compassion for victims

Part of the transformation includes exploring how to meaningfully engage victims and respond to their needs, while ensuring their safety at all stages of the criminal justice system process. We are working with provinces and territories to enhance supports for victims and survivors of crime and promote trauma-informed training for criminal justice system professionals. For instance, we are working in partnership with provincial and territorial victim services and community-based organizations to provide assistance, information, and culturally responsive, trauma-informed victim services to families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls across Canada.

We are also exploring more effective ways of holding offenders to account and supporting their rehabilitation. Restorative justice is one approach that can ensure accountability of offenders, give voice to the needs of victims, and strengthen our ability to restore communities. Restorative justice recognizes where people come from and why their stories matter. Restorative approaches create a place for victims, offenders and communities to collaboratively create better endings to their stories.

Needs of vulnerable populations

In transforming the criminal justice system, we will look at how to improve treatment for offenders with mental illness and how to reduce the use of segregation in prisons. We are also working over the long term to address gaps in services to marginalized groups that exist throughout the criminal justice system and to improve accessibility, both for victims and offenders.

Integrated approach

Transformation towards a modern, smarter criminal justice system must look at the root causes of systemic issues in social and economic systems, such as housing, education, employment and health care. We are working with provinces and territories to explore where we are relying too much on the criminal justice system to solve problems that are created or influenced by socio-economic systems. We are working to discover whether issues in the criminal justice system could be addressed more effectively elsewhere. Transformation of the criminal justice system is about looking at human problems in a more holistic way.