Addressing Systemic Racism: Budget 2021 and Fall Economic Statement 2020 support for Criminal Justice Reform
Indigenous Justice Engagement and Reconciliation
Budget 2021 proposed to provide $74.8 million over three years, starting in 2021-22, to improve access to justice for Indigenous peoples and support the development of an Indigenous Justice Strategy to address systemic discrimination and the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in the justice system. Of this amount, $24.2 million over three years would go to support engagement with Indigenous communities and organizations on the development of legislation and initiatives that address systemic barriers in the criminal justice system, including collaboration on an Indigenous Justice Strategy. This is a critical part of reconciliation.
A further investment of $31.5 million over two years would support the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, including through broad and distinctions-based consultation and cooperation with Indigenous peoples.
Additionally, the Budget provided $27.1 million over three years to help Indigenous families navigate the family justice system and access community-based family mediation services.
Re-establishing of the Law Commission of Canada
Independent expertise is critical if Canada’s legal system is to be responsive to the complex challenges of the day, such as systemic racism in the justice system, legal issues around climate change, establishing a new relationship with Indigenous peoples, and rapid technological shifts in the world. This is why Budget 2021 provided $18 million over five years, starting in 2021-22, and $4 million ongoing to revive the Law Commission of Canada.
Justice Data Modernization
To modernize Canada’s justice system, support evidence-based policies, and ensure accountability within the criminal justice system, the Government needs to update and fill gaps in its collection and use of data. Under Budget 2021 Justice Canada and Statistics Canada received $6.7 million over five years, starting in 2021-22, and $1.4 million ongoing, to improve the collection and use of disaggregated data. This is part of ongoing efforts to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples and racialized groups in the justice system.
Youth Justice Diversion Programming
Budget 2021 provided $216.4 million over five years, starting in 2021-22, and $43.3 million ongoing for the Youth Justice Services Funding Program to increase funding to the provinces and territories in support of diversion programming and to help reduce the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples, Black Canadians, and other racialized groups in the youth justice system. By diverting youth to the right services at the right time and addressing the root causes of crime, this measure will help reduce the crime rate and promote better outcomes for young people and their communities.
Racialized Communities Legal Support Initiative and Immigration and Refugee Legal Aid
To help build a strong justice system with fair outcomes for all, the government is making investments to support access to legal information and advice for racialized Canadians and asylum seekers.
As part of this commitment, Budget 2021 provided $21.5 million over five years for a Racialized Communities Legal Support Initiative. This will support organizations that provide free public legal education and information as well as organizations that provide legal services and advice to racialized communities. An anticipatory call for proposals for this funding was launched on November 15, 2021.
As well, Budget 2021 made available $26.8 million to enable participating provinces to maintain immigration and refugee legal aid support for asylum seekers, while protecting the efficiency and integrity of the asylum system.
Fall Economic Statement 2020
The Fall Economic Statement (FES) announced several important investments to address systemic racism in the criminal justice system. The FES funding will provide much needed support for organizations and programs that help address the inequities faced by Indigenous peoples, Black and racialized Canadians in the criminal justice, with the goal of creating a fair and more effective criminal justice system for all. These initiatives will help support the proposed legislation to amend the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, Bill C-5.
Support for Gladue Principles and reporting
The Government of Canada is investing $49.3 million over five years and $9.7 million ongoing to support the preparation of Gladue reports, and the implementation and integration of Gladue report recommendation and principles into the mainstream criminal justice system practices. This will help to address systemic barriers for Indigenous peoples in the criminal justice system by ensuring the background and systemic factors that bring Indigenous peoples into contact with the justice system are taken into account at sentencing, and to help inform reasonable alternatives to sentencing for Indigenous accused.
Support for Impact of Race and Culture Assessments (IRCAs)
The Government of Canada’s investment of $6.6 million over five years, and $1.6 million of ongoing funding, will support the implementation of IRCAs, which assist sentencing judges in considering the disadvantages and systemic racism that contributed to racialized Canadians’ interactions with the criminal justice system.
Support to Community Justice Centres (CJCs)
Community Justice Centres are an innovative approach for moving justice out of the traditional courtroom, and into a community setting. CJCs bring together justice, health, employment, education and social services to collectively address the root cause of crime, break the cycle of offending, and improve public safety and community well-being. Through the integration of culturally appropriate services, CJCs can help decrease the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples and Black Canadians in the criminal justice system, and provide solutions to systemic issues. The Government of Canada investment of $28.6 million over five years will support Community Justice Centres pilot projects in British Columbia, Manitoba and Ontario as well as consultations to expand the Community Justice Centre concept to other provinces and territories.
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