ST. JOHN'S, Nov. 16, 2018 /CNW/ - Today, federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) ministers concluded two days of constructive discussions on justice and public safety priorities that are important to Canadians.
The Attorney General of Newfoundland and Labrador began the meeting with an acknowledgement of the province as the ancestral homelands of many diverse populations of Indigenous peoples, including the Beothuk on the island of Newfoundland and the diverse histories and cultures of the Mi'kmaq, Innu and Inuit.
Modernizing the criminal justice system
Ministers held productive talks on the progress being made to make Canada's criminal justice system more fair, efficient and accessible. This included discussions on the status of criminal law reforms included in Bill C-75, which proposes reforms that seek to address delays in the system. Ministers expressed their general support for Bill C-75 and their commitment to continued collaboration, including to examine ways to improve the jury selection process in Canada. Some jurisdictions expressed the need for further consideration on mandatory minimum penalties and the Identification of Criminals Act. The need to fill new and existing judicial vacancies in a timely fashion was also raised, while progress that has already been made was mentioned.
Ministers discussed the role that restorative justice can play at all stages of the criminal justice system to help modernize the system and promote safer communities. The use of restorative justice encourages accountability of offenders to their communities and victims; supports better outcomes for victims; aims to interrupt the cycle of criminal behaviour; and provides opportunity for healing, repairing harm and reintegration. Ministers approved the Principles and Guidelines for Restorative Justice Practice in Criminal Matters and endorsed Restorative Justice – Key Elements of Success, which support accelerating the use of restorative justice. Ministers agreed to increase the use of restorative justice processes by a minimum target of 5% per jurisdiction, where possible, over the next 3 years. Jurisdictions noted the need for increased funding to support restorative justice.
Prioritizing public safety and police work
Ministers were informed on and discussed the progress of firearm-related initiatives; approaches to combat gun and gang violence; Bill C-71, An Act to amend certain Acts and Regulations in relation to firearms; and the federal government's public engagement on handguns and assault-style weapons. Jurisdictions with significant gun and gang violence raised the need for greater upfront investment to address this issue. Ministers were updated on the outcome of the federal government's public consultations and the forthcoming National Strategy on Countering Radicalization. Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to working together on countering radicalization in Canada. Ministers also discussed the importance of continuing to work together to address the gaps in Indigenous policing. Ministers were informed about new federal funding to improve policing facilities in First Nation and Inuit communities. Additionally, Ministers also talked about the allocation of up to 110 additional officer positions for existing Indigenous policing agreements under the First Nations Policing Program. Some jurisdictions raised concerns about the scope of the program and the need to expand it to other communities.
New legal frameworks for cannabis and impaired driving
Ministers reconfirmed that the new legal frameworks for cannabis and impaired driving must be guided by the objectives of displacing organized crime, regulating access, and protecting the health and safety of all Canadians, particularly young people.
Ministers shared their views on the initial successes and challenges concerning the legalization and regulation of cannabis. Ministers agreed to continue to collaborate in this regard, in particular, keeping cannabis out of the hands of youth and profits away from organized crime.
Ministers also engaged in productive discussions regarding the new impaired driving legislation, including the importance of equipping police with the tools and training they need for drug impaired driving enforcement.
Indigenous overrepresentation in criminal justice system
With respect to the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system, both as victims and offenders, Ministers agreed the issue requires further collaboration. Specifically, Ministers agreed to establish a Pan-Canadian Strategy that accommodates jurisdictional and community differences by coordinating existing FPT activities and best practices. Areas of focus may include restorative justice; Gladue factors; bail and remand; as well as support for victims, particularly for youth, women and girls. Ministers acknowledged that there are factors involved in overrepresentation that exist outside the criminal justice system and that there is a need to work in partnership with Indigenous peoples and stakeholders.
They also agreed to ask their officials to develop a similar strategy, for their consideration, to address other populations who are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. This strategy would also respect jurisdictional responsibilities and have appropriate links to the Pan-Canadian Strategy.
Improving the family justice system
On the topic of family law reform, Ministers supported Bill C-78, which aims to promote the best interests of the child, address family violence, contribute to poverty reduction efforts and improve access to the family justice system. Federal, provincial and territorial officials will work together to facilitate implementation and share best practices where potentially relevant to other jurisdictions.
Ministers agreed on the importance of ongoing collaboration to improve outcomes for families and children by better enforcement in interjurisdictional cases. They requested officials bring forward recommendations by Spring 2019 from the report to Canada's Premiers on increasing interjurisdictional support order enforcement.
Other priority items
Ministers acknowledged the links between money laundering, commercial crime, and guns and gangs. Ministers agreed to consider how to work cooperatively to combat these growing areas of concern.
The human and financial costs of the opioid crisis were acknowledged to be a significant problem. Ministers agreed to consider how to further collaborate on this critical matter. British Columbia encouraged Ministers to join British Columbia's class action lawsuit to seek damages from opioid manufacturers and distributors and to strike a national working group to assist with information-sharing and coordination. Ministers agreed to consider both proposals on an expedited basis.
Ministers discussed the issue of administrative segregation, including Bill C-83, which proposes to strengthen the federal correctional system, aligning it with the latest evidence and best practices by implementing a new correctional interventions model in federal institutions.
Ministers were also briefed on the federal government's new National Cyber Security Strategy, the consolidation of federal operational cyber security functions under the new Canadian Centre for Cyber Security and the importance of defining parameters for collaboration between governments.
Ministers discussed issues of domestic and sexual violence, including current legislative measures proposed by Bills C-51 and C-75, which aim to strengthen the criminal justice system's response to sexual assault and intimate partner violence. Ministers also approved an FPT report on access to justice for adult victims of sexual assault. Ministers were informed about new federal funding for legal advice and outreach initiatives related to sexual harassment in the workplace.
Working with Indigenous organizations on justice and public safety issues
Prior to their meeting, FPT Ministers engaged with representatives from the Assembly of First Nations and Native Women's Association of Canada. The discussions focused on key issues, notably initiatives to combat gun and gang violence; firearm issues; the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system as victims and offenders; restorative justice; and Indigenous policing.
"Canada's justice system is considered among the best in the world, in part because of our cooperative work together. Continued collaboration on policies, practices and programs, such as the expanded use of restorative justice, means our justice system will continue to be strengthened and transformed for the benefit of all Canadians."
The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, P.C., M.P., Q.C.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
"I greatly value these meetings with provincial and territorial colleagues responsible for justice and public safety. They enable us to discuss complex issues that affect all Canadians, and I appreciate the knowledge, perspectives and goodwill Ministers bring to the table."
The Honourable Ralph Goodale, P.C., M.P
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
"All levels of government are very committed to reducing firearm-related crime in Canada. This meeting of federal, provincial and territorial Ministers was a valuable opportunity to discuss the best approach to deal with handguns and assault weapons in Canada – without impeding the lawful use of firearms. It was also an important opportunity to discuss efforts to ensure the smooth implementation of the cannabis legislation and regulations, as well as the new drug-impaired driving regime."
The Honourable Bill Blair, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction
"These meetings with my colleagues from around the country and with National Indigenous Organizations provided a rare opportunity to exchange views and identify ways to address difficult and important issues. Though our provinces and territories are in many ways diverse, our concerns are often similar. These meetings confirm that initiatives being explored and implemented in Newfoundland and Labrador are comparable to those throughout the country. I leave these meetings with a strengthened commitment to work hard in the best interests of the people of the province."
The Honourable Andrew Parsons
Minister of Justice, Public Safety and Attorney General of Newfoundland
SOURCE Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat
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