Federal funding to help sentencing judges in Ontario understand impacts of race and discrimination on offenders
March 3, 2023 – 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 equal access to justice for Black and racialized people in Canada, and to addressing systemic racism and discrimination in all its forms and in all phases of the criminal justice system.
Today, Gary Anandasangaree, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, announced funding of $1.4 million over five years as of April 1, 2021, to Legal Aid Ontario to prepare Impact of Race and Culture Assessments (IRCAs) reports for Black persons and members of other racialized minority groups in Ontario.
IRCAs are pre-sentencing reports that help sentencing judges to better understand the effects of poverty, marginalization, racism, and social exclusion on the offender and their life experience. IRCAs explain the relationship between the offender’s lived experiences of racism and discrimination and how they inform the circumstances of the offender, the offence committed, and the offender’s experience with the justice system.
The funding will help support Legal Aid Ontario in providing IRCA reports for Black and other racialized offenders. This funding is part of the federal government’s commitment to address the overrepresentation of Black and racialized people in Canada’s criminal justice system, and to improve access to justice.
“Systemic racism and discrimination are painful lived realities for Black and racialized people that can create disadvantages in education, employment, and other areas of life. The funding for Legal Aid Ontario to provide Impact of Race and Culture Assessments will help eliminate systemic barriers and improve access to justice for Black and racialized people in Ontario. This funding will help courts consider the impact of racism and discrimination on a racialized offender’s life trajectory during sentencing in criminal matters.”
Gary Anandasangaree, M.P.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
“Sadly, people in Canada face racism and discrimination, including in our criminal justice system. The funding provided to Legal Aid Ontario will help reduce systemic barriers and improve access to justice for Black and racialized minorities in Ontario through the preparation of Impact of Race and Culture Assessments. These reports are an important tool in making fair and appropriate sentencing decisions.”
Iqwinder Gaheer, M.P.
Member of Parliament for Mississauga—Malton
“Legal Aid Ontario has long understood the inequities that exist for racialized communities—and Black people, in particular. We are grateful to the Department of Justice for funding pre-sentencing reports. Increased access to these cultural assessments will lead to sentencing decisions that consider an offender’s lived experience with systemic racism, poverty and discrimination.”
President and CEO, Legal Aid Ontario
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.
In 2020-21, Black adults accounted for 10% of all admissions in remand in Nova Scotia, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. Black people represent 4% of the Canadian population. (Statistics Canada. Custom request, 2023)
The 2020 Fall Economic Statement announced $6.64 million in funding for IRCAs over five years beginning April 1, 2021, followed by $1.6 million annually on an ongoing basis. These investments will support the Government of Canada’s plan to combat systemic discrimination against Black and other racialized Canadians.
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.
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.
Implementing 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.
In February 2023, the Government of Canada announced 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.
For more information, media may contact:
Office of the Minister of Justice
Department of Justice Canada
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