Consultation with Canadians report - Criminal Justice System

6. Conclusion

The Government of Canada completed a public consultation on transforming the criminal justice system as part of its mandate to review the criminal justice system.

The extent of key findings from this public consultation speak to the broad scope of the criminal justice system review. A summary of key findings include the following:

  • The criminal justice system should be based on respect, fairness, collaboration, compassion, and inclusiveness.
  • Objectives of the criminal justice system should include preventing crime, holding people accountable, rehabilitation, and repairing the harm done by crime.
  • The criminal justice system should take a multi-sectoral approach to justice with better integration with other social systems (e.g., health, education).
  • The focus should be on improving outcomes for victims and offenders
  • The criminal justice system requires change.
  • Changes should be made to sentencing – including less severe sentences for low-level, non-violent crime, more severe sentences for violent crime, and greater use of alternative measures.
  • Promote a more restorative approach to justice – healing and rehabilitation for both offenders and victims, and the consideration of circumstances.
  • Improve integration with other social systems like mental health, addictions services, and social work.
  • Prevent crime by addressing root causes: education, poverty, health, etc.
  • Provide ongoing training for all officials working in and alongside the criminal justice system on trauma and systemic biases (e.g., racial, gender).
  • Ensure diverse representation in criminal justice system appointments (e.g., judges) and hiring.
  • Provide free, automatic, comprehensive legal and mental health services/supports to victims.
  • Offer alternative means of victim testimony at preliminary hearings and trial – closed-circuit television (CCTV), written testimony, etc.
  • Take a trauma-informed, victim-centered approach to criminal justice.
  • Ensure automatic information sharing with victims about the criminal justice process (e.g., investigation, trial, sentencing, parole) and restorative justice.
  • Focus on victims’ rights in the context of gender-based violence.
  • Dismantle systemic biases in the criminal justice system.
  • Educate criminal justice stakeholders on Indigenous issues – intergenerational trauma, history of colonialism, etc.
  • Implement an Indigenous-controlled court system based on Indigenous culture, overseen by Elders; community-based healing.
  • Address root causes of Indigenous crime, including intergenerational trauma, addiction, and problems with food security, access to clean water, and equitable education as part of Canada’s reconciliation efforts.
  • Standardize application of Gladue principles that consider the special circumstances that affect Indigenous people and alternatives to incarceration.
  • Prioritize treatment over punishment for people with mental health and addictions issues in the criminal justice system.
  • Implement specialized mental health courts.
  • Improve integration between criminal justice and health care systems, including robust mental health assessments and support services for people in jail.
  • Provide comprehensive specialized legal representation for accused persons with mental health issues.
  • Decriminalize some or all drugs.
  • Address the root causes of crime, including poverty, unemployment, inadequate housing, and mental health and addictions issues
  • Improve mental health and addictions assessments, services and accessibility to prevent crime.
  • Implement problem-solving and community-based approaches to break the cycle of crime.
  • Addressing root causes is more cost-effective than incarceration in the long term.
  • Consider alternative measures and community-based programming for administration of justice offences. 
  • Focus on mental health supports including treatment or counselling for accused/offenders with mental health issues charged with administration of justice offences.
  • Take into account the root causes of crime when determining a sentence.
  • Ensure that bail/probation conditions reflect the offence and the accused/offender’s individual/life circumstances (e.g., no ban on alcohol consumption if alcohol was not a factor in the original offence or the accused/offender has an addiction issue and there are no treatment supports).
  • Use restorative justice and/or alternative measures for low-level, non-violent offenders.
  • Use restitution, community service, and counselling as alternative measures for certain crimes.
  • Focus on supporting victims and their families through restorative measures.
  • Fast track some cases through the system; deal with minor offences in alternative ways.
  • Increase the use of restorative justice programs and specialized courts.
  • Increase funding for all aspects of the criminal justice system, including judges, prosecutors, police, technology, legal aid, and prevention programs.
  • Restrict intentional or strategic court delays by the Crown/prosecution.
  • Reverse time restrictions on court delays or only apply  in certain circumstances.

Some of the issues raised involve other social systems, and their solutions will require long-term collaborative approaches.

Among other things, solutions will involve identifying where and how vulnerable populations intersect with the criminal justice system, ensuring resources are allocated efficiently and effectively, and considering evidence and sound information. Our criminal justice system must be capable of responding to a rapidly changing world, including both societal and technological changes.

As the criminal justice system review continues, the Government will consider findings from the public consultation.

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