Pre-Sentencing Impact of Race and Culture Assessments receive Government of Canada funding
August 13, 2021 – Toronto, Ontario – Department of Justice Canada
Access to justice is a fundamental Canadian value and an integral part of a fair and just society. The Government of Canada is committed to providing fair and equal access to justice for Black and racialized Canadians while addressing systemic racism and discrimination in all its forms and in all phases of the criminal justice system.
Today, the Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, announced the Government of Canada’s investment of $6.64 million over five years beginning April 1, 2021, followed by $1.6 million annually on an ongoing basis for the implementation of Impact of Race and Culture Assessments (IRCAs) across Canada.
IRCAs are pre-sentencing reports that help sentencing judges to better understand the effect of poverty, marginalization, racism, and social exclusion on the offender and their life experience. IRCAs explain how the offender’s lived experiences of racism and discrimination inform the circumstances of the offender, the offence committed, and the offender’s experience with the justice system.
The funding will help support:
- the development of a training curriculum for IRCA writers;
- education of criminal defence lawyers, crown prosecutors and judges on IRCAs; and
- drafting of IRCA reports for eligible racialized accused Canadians.
Funding is being provided to specialized organizations for IRCA assessor training and mentorship, and for awareness programs and continuing professional development for lawyers, judges and other justice system actors.
Additionally, funding will be available to all provincial and territorial legal aid programs in all jurisdictions for the preparation of IRCAs, with the goal of making this important tool a part of the criminal justice system across the country.
“Our government knows that systemic racism and discrimination are painful lived realities for Black and racialized Canadians, creating disadvantages in education, employment, and other areas of life. The funding being provided today to implement Impact of Race and Culture Assessments will help eliminate systemic barriers in our criminal justice system for Black and racialized Canadians by helping courts consider the impact of race and cultural heritage on a racialized offender’s life trajectory during sentencing in criminal matters.”
The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., Q.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
“The Sentencing and Parole Project informs the justice system about the impact of anti-Black racism through the preparation of reports referred to as Impact of Race and Culture Assessments, and a national legal education program focused on reducing incarceration and advancing rehabilitation for racialized people.”
Faisal Mirza, Director of the Sentencing and Parole Project
"We are excited to be partnering with Justice Canada in rolling out training to support the implementation of Impact of Race and Culture Assessments across Canada. Canada is a diverse country and sadly, many people experience the effects of systemic racism and social injustice. Initiatives like this are evidence of Canada’s commitment to fulfilling the promises outlined in its Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Already we see courts embracing this tool and using it to redress the injustices experienced by people of African descent within the criminal justice system."
Robert S. Wright, Executive Director of the Peoples’ Counselling Clinic
These investments were initially proposed in the 2020 Fall Economic Statement and will support the Government of Canada’s plan to combat systemic discrimination against Black and other racialized Canadians.
IRCAs work on the premise that a person’s race and cultural heritage are significant factors in considering a racialized offender’s sentence in a criminal matter, since understanding how an offender has been disadvantaged in education, employment and other areas of society is key to making an appropriate sentencing decision.
The Peoples’ Counselling Clinic will receive $956,262 over three years for IRCA assessor training and mentorship; the Sentencing and Parole Project will receive $480,000 over three years for continuing professional development for lawyers and other justice system actors; and the National Judicial Institute will receive $302,500 over five years for the development and implementation of an online course on IRCAs for members of the Canadian judiciary.
The implementation of IRCAs in the mainstream justice system responds to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination’s concluding observations, which urged Canada to address the issue of overrepresentation of Black and other racialized Canadians in the justice system.
For more information, media may contact:
Office of the Minister of Justice
Department of Justice Canada
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