Final report on the review of Canada’s criminal justice system

Minister’s message

In 2015, as part of the mandate letter to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Government of Canada undertook a broad review of Canada’s criminal justice system to ensure that it is just, compassionate and fair, and that it promotes a safe, peaceful and prosperous Canadian society. While Canada’s criminal justice system has many strengths, many challenges need to be addressed. Reconsidering how the system can be modernized to reflect the needs and expectations of Canadians is an issue of paramount importance to our country and the well-being of its citizens.

I am pleased to present the Final Report of the Government of Canada’s Review of the Criminal Justice System. This report brings together the ideas and opinions of thousands of Canadians on how to improve the system.

Broad-scale engagement was fundamental to this process. Over the past three years, people across the country were able to provide their views and feedback through a variety of platforms.

Consultations began with a series of roundtable events held in each province and territory which brought together stakeholder experts, Crown prosecutors, defence lawyers, Indigenous leaders, academics, victim advocates, restorative justice proponents and representatives of front-line community support systems. These included representatives from areas such as mental health, housing and other social support systems. In March 2018, a report entitled What we heard - Transforming Canada’s criminal justice system was made public.

Engaging the Canadian public was another important aspect of this meaningful review. In late 2017, the Department of Justice launched its largest-ever public consultation on the criminal justice system. This included an online engagement and social media campaign. A report summarizing what was heard during the public consultation was published in April 2019.

Based on the first two phases of consultations, it became clear that meaningful and lasting change will require a multi-sectoral approach. As a result, the Department of Justice then collaborated with the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP) to hold four stakeholder roundtables and produce a series of articles in their digital magazine Policy Options. Both the roundtables and the articles focused on how the criminal justice system could better complement and support other social systems to achieve better outcomes.

Overall, there was consensus that the system requires major change. Participants expressed that the system must be based on respect, fairness, collaboration, compassion, and inclusiveness. It should hold individuals accountable for their actions and work collaboratively with other sectors to prevent crime, rehabilitate offenders and repair the harm done by crime. Changes to sentencing, increasing the use of restorative justice, taking a more victim-centered and trauma-informed approach, increasing understanding of what is happening in the system and the ability to monitor progress and focusing on the root causes of crime were some of the suggested areas of focus in order to transform the system.

Thanks to the contributions of Canadians, much of the groundwork has been laid for continued criminal justice reform. I would like to thank the thousands of Canadians who took the time to reflect on these important matters. While the official review is now completed, I am confident that the dialogue on reform will continue and that this review provides a 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