Consultation with Canadians report - Criminal Justice System

1. Minister’s Message

I am pleased to present this report on the results of the public consultations on transforming Canada’s criminal justice system.

Part of my mandate as Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada is to conduct a review of our criminal justice system. This review is an opportunity to ensure that our system is just, compassionate and fair, and that it promotes a safe, peaceful and prosperous Canadian society. While Canada’s criminal justice system has a strong foundation, it faces many challenges today. We need to reconsider how it can continue to reflect the needs and expectations of Canadians.

Consulting Canadians is fundamental to this process. Over the past three years, my predecessor, the Honorable Jody Wilson-Raybould engaged with criminal justice partners and Canadians across the country. The conversation began with a series of roundtables with provincial and territorial stakeholders. Participants at the provincial and territorial roundtables included Crown prosecutors, defence lawyers, Indigenous leaders, academics, victim advocates, restorative justice proponents, representatives of front-line community support systems, and representatives from areas such as health and mental health, housing, and other social support systems. In March 2018, the report on provincial and territorial stakeholder consultations entitled What we heard - Transforming Canada's criminal justice system was made public.

In November 2017, a public consultation was launched on the transformation of the criminal justice system. To ensure that these consultations would be well-informed and meaningful, participants were provided with essential information about the criminal justice system, including statistics, other data, and videos of people’s lived experiences. In response, more than 11,000 Canadians shared their views on transforming the criminal justice system. This report summarizes what was heard from those who took part in the online and in-person consultation opportunities.  

The main message, on which there was broad consensus, is that the criminal justice system requires some changes. Participants agreed that the system must be based on respect, fairness, collaboration, compassion, and inclusiveness. Preventing crime, holding people accountable, rehabilitation, and repairing the harm done by crime were also noted as important objectives. Participants provided ideas on redesigning the system, including changes to sentencing, increased use of restorative justice, approaches that are victim-centred and trauma-informed, and more focus on addressing the root causes of crime. 

These responses will provide valuable guidance as we continue the work of transforming the justice system. The Government of Canada has taken some important steps already, notably the introduction of legislation on reducing court delays and the modernization of our judicial appointment process.

I want to build on this momentum, collaborating with the provinces and territories to support initiatives and reforms that will ensure Canadians can have confidence and pride in our criminal justice system. This includes the introduction of Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. This legislation will, among other things, modernize and clarify bill provisions and provide an enhanced approach to administration of justice offences. This legislation will address many of the same priorities that were identified in the consultations.

I will also continue to support the use of restorative justice so that we can better repair the harm that crime causes to individuals and communities. In addition, we will continue to work with Indigenous communities and organizations to promote culturally appropriate community-based justice programs to reduce the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system.

Another key priority, highlighted in the consultations, will be to examine interactions between the criminal justice system and other social systems, such as health and housing, in order to find better ways to help the most vulnerable groups in the criminal justice system, including those with addictions and mental illness. We will support collaborative approaches that address the root causes of crime, including drug treatment courts. We will also continue to work to ensure that the criminal justice system responds to the needs of victims, and that victims receive the supports they require.

We believe that the changes we enact must be evidence-based, promote a safer and more just society and help build a more efficient criminal justice system. We are developing a performance monitoring and reporting framework based on high-level expected outcomes and national indicators, so that we can track our progress and better assess our performance.

Transforming the criminal justice system, and ensuring that it is more efficient and fair, will take time, especially in those areas where the solutions require long-term systemic change. We will continue to explore ways to modernize the criminal justice system in response to the challenges – and the opportunities – presented by rapid technological advances.

By spring 2019, I intend to release a final report summarizing the Government’s progress on our efforts to transform the criminal justice system and a roadmap for the criminal justice system’s way forward.

The Government of Canada is indebted to the thousands of Canadians who took the time to reflect on these important matters. While the official public consultation is now complete, the dialogue on reform will continue. I am confident that this review will provide the foundation for addressing some of the most challenging issues facing the criminal justice system.

The Honourable David Lametti  
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

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