Canada tables legislation to modernize the criminal justice system and reduce court delays

News release

Legislation marks the next step in transforming the criminal justice system 

March 29, 2018 -  Ottawa, ON - Department of Justice Canada

Canadians deserve to have a well-functioning criminal justice system that protects the vulnerable, meets the needs of victims, and keeps our communities safe. Delays in the criminal justice system impact everyone affected by crime – victims, families, communities, as well as the accused. Left unaddressed, the impacts of delays reduce public confidence in the criminal justice system. 

Today, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, introduced legislation to improve the efficiency of the criminal justice system and reduce court delays. Some of the sections of the Criminal Code proposed for amendment have not been considered in decades, making today an important milestone in transforming our justice system. Responsibility for the justice system is shared by all levels of government. Accordingly, many of the reforms proposed in this legislation reflect collaborative efforts to address court delays, and have been identified as priorities by federal, provincial, and territorial Justice Ministers. 

The reforms will make the criminal law and the criminal justice system clearer and more efficient by: 

  • limiting the use of preliminary inquiries to more serious offences to ensure criminal cases can proceed more efficiently to trial
  •  strengthening our response to intimate partner violence
  • streamlining bail processes to ensure swifter access to justice
  • providing judges with more robust tools they need to manage the cases before them
  • improving the jury selection process to ensure that juries are more representative of the Canadian population
  • more discretion on administration of justice offences
  • reclassifying offences to allow courts to deal more efficiently with less serious matters, freeing up limited resources for more serious offences

Further, a number of these reforms will assist in reducing the overrepresentation of Indigenous people and vulnerable populations in the criminal justice system, including those with addictions and mental illness.

Along with new reforms, the Bill introduced today also includes Criminal Code amendments in legislation currently before Parliament: Bill C-28, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (victim surcharge); Bill C-38, An Act to amend An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons); and, Bill C-39, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (unconstitutional provisions) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. Including these amendments in one Bill will enable Parliament to consider all of these reforms in a timely fashion.

These comprehensive amendments will help increase efficiencies and reduce delays for all those involved in the criminal justice system, while respecting their rights and protecting public safety. Together, these reforms will serve as a catalyst to bring about a culture shift within the criminal justice system. 


“Canadians deserve a justice system that reflects their values and in which they can have confidence. This proposed legislation responds to the Supreme Court of Canada’s Jordan decision by taking concrete steps to make our criminal justice system more effective and efficient while respecting the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. More importantly, it will make a significant contribution to a necessary culture shift in the way our criminal justice system operates.”
The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, P.C. Q.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada 

Quick facts

  • Administration of the criminal justice system is a shared responsibility between federal, provincial and territorial governments; the proposed legislation will address criminal law reform, which is a federal responsibility. 

  • The federal government is responsible for the Criminal Code and prosecutions in the territories and of federal offences; the provinces and territories are responsible for administering the criminal justice system.

  • The vast majority of the proposals with respect to delays included in this package have been the subject of extensive federal-provincial-territorial consultation and collaboration. 

  • The Government also continues to consult more broadly with stakeholders and Canadians in support of the ongoing review of the criminal justice system.

  • Along with seeking reform to reduce delays in the criminal justice system, this bill also proposes to abolish peremptory challenges, which now give prosecutors and defence counsel the ability to exclude a potential juror without giving a reason.

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For more information, media may contact:

David Taylor
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Media Relations
Department of Justice Canada

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