Critical work on the next phase of Canada’s Black Justice Strategy begins
February 15, 2023 – Ottawa, Ontario – Department of Justice Canada
Black communities in Canada continue to live with the effects of prejudice, discrimination, and hatred—from unconscious bias to anti-Black hate crimes and violence. These systemic inequalities have resulted in the overrepresentation of Black people in Canada’s criminal justice system, including as victims of crime. To further its work to address these systemic issues, the Government of Canada is working with Black communities to develop Canada’s Black Justice Strategy (the Strategy).
Today, the Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada was joined by the Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion; the Honourable Marci Ien, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth; Dr. Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, Associate Professor of the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto; and Zilla Jones, Human Rights Lawyer, to announce the establishment of a Steering Group to lead the next phase of Canada’s Black Justice Strategy.
The nine-member Steering Group will develop a framework for consultations led by Black communities across Canada and work with other experts and community leaders. This work will ensure that the Strategy is grounded in the diverse backgrounds, experiences and regional realities of Black communities across Canada.
The Steering Group members are Dr. Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, Anthony Morgan, Fernando Belton, Mandela Kuet, Moya Teklu, Sandra Muchekeza, Suzanne Taffot, Vanessa Fells, and Zilla Jones. These leaders from across the country will bring their expertise and experiences to this very important work. Dr. Akwasi Owusu-Bempah and Zilla Jones will co-author a final report, providing an overview of the information gathered through consultations and the Steering Group’s recommendations.
The goal of this work is a comprehensive strategy that identifies concrete ways to address both the systemic discrimination and anti-Black racism that exists in Canada’s criminal justice system, as well as actions to reform and modernize the criminal justice system, to ensure that every Canadian has access to fair and just treatment before the law.
“Canada’s Black Justice Strategy provides a generational opportunity to promote fairness and justice for Black people in this country. By building on previous work, and drawing on broad perspectives and experiences, the Strategy will advance a comprehensive approach to combatting anti-Black racism in our justice system and beyond. The Strategy will be national in scope, yet attuned to the diversity of our Black populations, and the regional differences that exist in Canada.”
Dr. Akwasi Owusu-Bempah
Canada’s Black Justice Strategy Steering Group Member and Author, and Associate Professor of the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto
“Canada’s Black Justice strategy is a historic acknowledgment by the Government of Canada that systemic anti-Black racism exists in Canada and that it has poisoned our justice system, negatively impacting the integrity of our communities and the futures of our children. This initiative aims to give real meaning to the principles of redress and reconciliation by listening to the voices of grassroots Black communities—those most impacted by inequality in the justice system. It is very significant that we will be hearing from Black communities from coast to coast to coast—all regions, all different parts of the African Diaspora. I am honoured to be able to start this work by listening and connecting, and I am hopeful that the report we create will make a tangible difference in Black lives for generations to come.”
Canada’s Black Justice Strategy Steering Group Member and Author, and Human Rights Lawyer
“Our government is committed to fighting systemic discrimination and anti-Black racism in our institutions, which continue to be painful realities for members of Black communities across the country. Developing and implementing Canada’s Black Justice Strategy, in consultation and collaboration with Black communities, will ensure that all Canadians have access to fair and just treatment before the law. I am honoured to be announcing the Steering Group today, and I look forward to seeing their work unfold over the coming months.”
The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., K.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
“In Canada, diversity is a fact, but inclusion is a choice. As we celebrate Black History Month, we also need to acknowledge the social, economic and political barriers Black communities have faced and continue to face because of systemic anti-Black racism and discrimination. Building a more equitable and inclusive country takes hard work and thoughtful engagement, especially when it comes to improving the reality of Black communities across our country. Canada’s Black Justice Strategy's Steering Group will help guide our government’s work in finding solutions to the disproportionately negative experiences of Canada’s Black communities in the criminal justice system. I thank the steering group for the challenge it is about to take on as we move toward building a more inclusive and equitable Canada where no one is left behind.”
The Honourable Ahmed Hussen,
Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion
“We know that anti-Black racism and systemic inequality have intergenerational effects on Black communities across Canada, which is why we are proud to announce that the work supporting Canada’s Black Justice Strategy is moving ahead. The invaluable advice of the Steering Group will be used to create meaningful change while centring the experiences of Black people in Canada, including women, girls and gender-diverse people to make sure Canada’s justice system is equitable for everyone.”
The Honourable Marci Ien,
Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth
In 2020-21, Black adults (aged 18 years and more), who represented approximately 4% of the adult population in Canada, were consistently overrepresented in provincial admissions to correctional services (custody and community services) across reporting jurisdictions, namely Nova Scotia, Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia.
The December 2021 mandate letter for the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, the Honorable David Lametti, includes a commitment to developing Canada’s Black Justice Strategy with the support of the Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion and in consultation and cooperation with Black communities. The Strategy will help address the systemic discrimination and anti-Black racism that has resulted in the overrepresentation of Black people in Canada’s criminal justice system, including as victims of crime.
The Government of Canada formally endorsed the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015 to 2024) in 2018. The International Decade provides an important framework—organized around three pillars of Recognition, Justice and Development—to address the most pressing issues affecting Black communities around the world, including in Canada. This means taking action on the issues that affect people of African descent in Canada, including improving research and data collection, addressing mental health challenges, systemic discrimination and the overrepresentation of Black people in the criminal justice system.
In August 2016, at the invitation of the Government of Canada, the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent visited Canada on a mission to examine the situation of Black persons in this country. At the conclusion of their mission, the three-member United Nations delegation submitted The 2017 Report of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent on its mission to Canada, presenting recommendations to assist Canada in its efforts to combat all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, Afrophobia and related intolerance. This report motivated the Government of Canada to look for solutions to fundamental issues faced by Black people in Canada concerning systemic racism, and the overrepresentation of Black people in the criminal justice system.
For more information, media may contact:
Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Department of Justice Canada
Office of the Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion
Women and Gender Equality Canada
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