Consultation with Canadians report - Criminal Justice System

4. How we engaged Canadians

In reviewing ways to transform our criminal justice system, the Government of Canada engaged a broad and diverse range of Canadians. The goal of the public consultation was to allow participants to learn more about the criminal justice system before inviting them to share their stories and ideas. Participants had the opportunity to describe their own experiences as well as their vision for a transformed criminal justice system.Footnote 2

Direct engagements with Canadians

Direct engagements with Canadians - Text version
  • 11,468 direct engagements with Canadians
  • 8,165 Choicebook participants
  • 2,147 Twitter comments
  • 411 Reddit comments
  • 200 discussion forum comments
  • 150 email submissions
  • 72 in-person roundtable participants in: Vancouver, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, Montreal

An innovative consultation approach was designed to foster a national conversation on transforming the criminal justice system. Using online, face-to-face, and social media channels, thousands of Canadians from across the country were engaged, including family members of victims, academics and researchers, frontline staff from community-based agencies, individuals convicted of a criminal offence, Indigenous people living on and off reserve, and interested Canadians.

The public consultation was designed to be inclusive and accessible and to provide Canadians with different ways to learn about the issues, engage in dialogue with others, and contribute ideas for change. Recognizing the growing importance of social media and online engagement in the lives of Canadians, special attention was placed on ensuring the consultation reached out to as many Canadians as possible online.

Canadians were engaged using

Consultation “hub” website:
An interactive consultation website provided visitors with easy-to-use tools to learn and participate, including a research primer on issues facing the criminal justice system, The Canadian Criminal Justice System: Overall Trends and Key Pressure Points.
Real-life Videos:

A series of mini-documentary videos about people’s real-life experiences with the criminal justice system were presented to show the human impact of criminal justice issues. They are described in this report in text boxes at the beginning of each relevant section.

Interactive Choicebook:
Criminal justice system issues can be complex. Consequently, instead of using a simple online survey, we developed a more interactive tool called a Choicebook. This tool helped participants learn more about the criminal justice system and see the challenges from different perspectives, using scenarios and stories, before being asked for their own views on criminal justice system transformation. The scenarios are described in this report in text boxes at the beginning of each relevant section. The Choicebook took participants approximately 25-30 minutes to complete (See Appendix A: Choicebook for the full text of the survey.) Participation was counted if at least one substantive (non-demographic) question was answered. For demographic information on Choicebook participants, please refer to the subheading “Choicebook participant demographics” at the end of this section.
Online Discussions:
Canadians were also provided with an opportunity to connect with each other online through discussion forums centred around five topics: victims’ experience, Indigenous overrepresentation, mental health and addictions, restorative justice, and court delays. Topics were introduced and explained by real-life video stories. Participants exchanged ideas on changes to the criminal justice system. Indigenous overrepresentation provoked the most discussion (55 comments), followed by victims’ experience (51 comments), mental health and addictions (46 comments), restorative justice (29 comments), and court delays (19 comments).
Twitter Townhall:
On January 24, 2018, Marco Mendicino, former Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, hosted a live Twitter Townhall about transforming the criminal justice system. The event engaged individuals and civil society organizations from across Canada. The hashtag for the townhall, #justransformation, was one of the top trending Twitter conversations in Canada at the time. Twitter comments were also accepted from participants in response to a series of posts from the Department of Justice Canada.
Canadians were also invited to send in their stories, thoughts and contributions by email. Approximately 150 emails were received, many of which contained moving and powerful experiences about the criminal justice system.
A sub-Reddit (online discussion forum) was created on the topic of transforming the criminal justice system. In total, 411 comments were received from Reddit users.
In-person roundtables:
Four in-person roundtables were held in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, and Montreal with community organizations, researchers, advocates, and family members of those with first-hand experience with the criminal justice systemFootnote 3. See Appendix B for a list of participating organizations.

A communications campaign was developed to increase public awareness about the consultation and encourage participation. Notices were placed on a wide range of Government of Canada websites, including and Twitter. A paid advertising campaign was used to promote the consultation on Twitter and the Department of Justice paid to have promotional tweets appear on users’ Twitter feeds as sponsored posts.

The Minister of Justice and other parliamentarians also promoted the consultation through their personal social media accounts.

By engaging Canadians on a variety of digital and in-person platforms, the consultation successfully reached a diverse group of individuals with a wide range of perspectives. In total, 11,468 contributions were received across all engagement channels, including over 1 million words of feedback, stories and ideas.

Data analysis

Qualitative data analysis software called NVivo was used to analyze participants’ responses to the Choicebook’s open-ended questions and feedback on other engagement channels. Using this software, a coding process was developed to review, analyze, and organize large volumes of qualitative data. Each piece of qualitative data was categorized into one or more “coding trees,” developed to represent the categories or themes emerging from participants’ input.

This approach allowed analysts to manage qualitative data and continuously refine their analyses, as new themes can be developed, existing themes can be reframed, and themes can be merged or separated as needed. Through this process, analysts can better understand key trends in the qualitative data, which ultimately helps contribute to more detailed and in-depth reporting. The frequency of themes (i.e., how many times something was mentioned) helps determine the most common issues and concerns identified by participants.

Two statistical analysis programs SPSS and Q were used to analyze the Choicebook’s closed-ended questions. SPSS was primarily used for restructuring and validating the data, while Q assisted in the analysis of data, discovery of trends, and reporting.

Report structure

This report synthesizes input that Canadians provided through the various engagement platforms, including the Choicebook, other online sources (e.g., email, social media), and in-person roundtables used in this consultation.  As Choicebook respondents make up the vast majority of consultation participants, analysis of Choicebook data findings features most prominently in the report. Some topics like Indigenous overrepresentation, or mental health and addictions, were cross-cutting and arose frequently in many Choicebook responses and engagements and are discussed throughout the report. The length of the sections dedicated to their discussion is not indicative of the amount of feedback provided on them. Each section also incorporates feedback received from all other engagement sources.

Report sections are organized by theme, beginning with a list of the top themes in each section. Where participants responded to quantitative Choicebook questions, percentages are cited. Where open-ended responses were provided, language indicative of greater (many, frequently, etc.) or lesser (some, several, few, etc.) proportions is used. Topics provided in qualitative feedback are arranged from most frequently to least frequently raised.

Choicebook participant demographics

Justice Transformation: Choicebook participant characteristics - Text version
  • 8,165 individual participants
  • 1,020,000 words in open-ended responses
  • 58% female
  • 40% male
  • 2% transgender
  • 1% non-binary
  • 1% from Yukon
  • 0% from North West Territories
  • 0% from Nunavut
  • 16% from British Columbia
  • 17% from Alberta
  • 5% from Saskatchewan
  • 4% from Manitoba
  • 35% from Ontario
  • 14% from Quebec
  • 1% from New Brunswick
  • 1% from Newfound Land and Labrador
  • 1% from Prince Edward Island
  • More than 59% were 44 years old and under
  • 41% were 45 years and older
  • 6% identify as First Nations, Métis, or Inuit

In total, 8,165 individuals participated in the Choicebook, providing 1.02 million words of feedback from Canadians on transforming the criminal justice system. The largest proportion of respondents were from Ontario (35%), followed by Alberta (17%), British Columbia (16%), and Quebec (14%).

The majority of respondents were younger than 44 years old (59%), and more were female (58%) than male (40%). A large majority (94%) of participants reported some form of post-secondary education. More than half (53%) of respondents said they completed the Choicebook because they are interested in the topic, another 20% said they work in the criminal justice system, 12% said they have a family member or close friend who has been a victim of a crime, or have been a victim themselves, and 2% said they have been convicted of a criminal offence.

First Nations, Métis or Inuit represented 6% of Choicebook respondents. Among Indigenous respondents, 18% said they know someone who has been the victim of a crime or have been a victim themselves; and 9% said they work in the criminal justice system.