Engaging with Black communities to address systemic discrimination and overrepresentation in the criminal justice system

News release

Engaging with Black communities to address systemic discrimination and overrepresentation in the criminal justice system

September 5, 2023 – Ottawa, Ontario – Department of Justice Canada

Black people and Black communities continue to live with the effects of prejudice, discrimination, and hatred—from unconscious bias to anti-Black racism, 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 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 Arif Virani, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, joined by the Honourable Kamal Khera, Minister of Diversity, Inclusion and Persons with Disabilities, announced the launch of community and online engagement to inform the development of the Strategy.

It is critical that Canada’s Black Justice Strategy be grounded in the experiences of Black people in Canada, reflecting the diverse history, backgrounds, experiences and regional realities of Black communities. The goal of this work is a comprehensive strategy that identifies concrete ways to address both the anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination that exists in Canada’s criminal justice system, as well as actions for reform and to modernize it, to ensure that everyone in Canada has access to equal treatment before and under the law.

Engagement will be guided by the Framework for Canada’s Black Justice Strategy. The Framework is a document developed by the external Steering Group, comprised of nine leaders and experts from Black communities across Canada, with diverse backgrounds and experiences, and with expertise related to Canada’s justice system. It includes solutions, knowledge, and some grassroots work that is already in use in Black communities. Using the Framework, 12 Black-led community-based organizations from across Canada will lead consultation and engagement activities to validate existing information and recommendations included in the Framework, identify missing or outdated information and recommendations, and highlight gaps in policies, legislation, data, services, initiatives, programs and community supports. The following organizations will be engaging with communities in August and September 2023:

Justice Canada has also lauched an online survey to ensure that those who are unable to participate in community consultations and engagements still have the opportunity to contribute to this important work. Black people of all ages living in Canada who cannot participate in community engagements, as well as representatives of organizations that provide justice-related services and supports to Black communities in Canada, are invited to share their views by completing the online survey by September 29, 2023.  

The outcomes of community and online consultations and engagements will be shared with the external Steering Group who will use them to develop recommendations for concrete actions to address the overrepresentation of Black people in the criminal justice system, including as victims of crime. These recommendations will be included in the Steering Group’s Final Strategy Report, due at the end of 2023. This Final Strategy Report will in turn inform an implementation plan, to be developed and released by Justice Canada in 2024.

Quotes

“Our government is committed to combating systemic discrimination and anti-Black racism in our institutions, which continue to be painful realities for Black people and communities across the country. Today marks the launch of an important step in the process to develop a strategy that truly reflects the needs and realities of Black communities across Canada. I want to thank the 12 organizations for their work to engage directly with communities, experts, and community workers. Together, we can bring positive, lasting and transformative change in our justice system and in the lives of Black people—building a fairer, more equal, and inclusive society for all. Everyone in Canada has a stake in moving Canada’s Black Justice Strategy forward.”

The Honourable Arif Virani P.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

“Every Canadian deserves to be treated equally under the law. Despite the progress our government has made, we know that too many Black people in Canada still face systemic discrimination and racism in their daily lives, as well as within our criminal justice system. By consulting with Black communities across the country, we are ensuring that the Strategy is shaped by their lived experiences with the anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination that persist within our criminal justice system.”

The Honourable Kamal Khera,
Minister of Diversity, Inclusion and Persons with Disabilities

Quick facts

  • Black adults are overrepresented in the correctional system. In 2020-2021, Black adults (aged 18 years and more), who represented approximately 4% of the adult population in Canada, represented 9% of the total federal offender population and 8% of all admissions to reporting provincial and territorial correctional services (Nova Scotia, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia), each 2 times their representation in the general population (4%). (Statistics Canada and Correctional Service of Canada, 2022)

  • In 2022, police-reported hate crimes motivated by hatred of a race or ethnicity increased by 12%, whereas the percentage of hate crimes specifically targeting the Black community increased by 28% (more than twice as much). These crimes accounted for 43% of all police-reported crimes motivated by hatred of a race or ethnicity. (Statistics Canada, 2022)

  • 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, 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 and confronting the overrepresentation of Black people in the criminal justice system, including as victims of crime.

  • In 2019, the Government of Canada released Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy 2019-2022 to support immediate steps in combatting racism and discrimination in Canada. The Strategy came with a $45 million investment to support concrete actions, complementing existing government efforts and programs aimed at eliminating inequities. The development of Canada’s Black Justice Strategy is consistent with the broader Anti-Racism Strategy.

  • The December 2021 mandate letter for the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada 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 anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination that has resulted in the overrepresentation of Black people in Canada’s criminal justice system, including as victims of crime.

  • On November 27, 2022, former Bill C-5 received Royal Assent and came into force, making our criminal justice system fairer and more effective while upholding public safety. Former Bill C-5 repealed certain mandatory minimum penalties that have most contributed to the over-incarceration of Black, Indigenous, racialized, and marginalized people, increased the availability of conditional sentence orders (commonly referred to as house arrest) where appropriate, and encouraged the greater use of diversion programs for simple possession of drugs.

  • On February 15, 2023 the Government of Canada announced the establishment of an external Steering Group to lead the development of Canada’s Black Justice Strategy. The Steering Group is comprised of nine leaders and experts from Black communities across Canada, with diverse backgrounds and experiences, and with expertise related to Canada’s justice system. The Steering Group has developed a Framework to guide community consultations and engagements, and will use those results to provide recommendations to the Government of Canada on concrete actions to address the overrepresentation of Black people in the criminal justice system, including as victims of crime.

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Contacts

For more information, media may contact:

Chantalle Aubertin
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
613-992-6568
chantalle.aubertin@justice.gc.ca

Media Relations
Department of Justice Canada
613-957-4207
media@justice.gc.ca

Alisson Lévesque
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Diversity, Inclusion and Persons with Disabilities, Kamal Khera
alisson.levesque@hrsdc-rhdcc.gc.ca
873-455-6248

Media Relations Office
Employment and Social Development Canada
819-994-5559
media@hrsdc-rhdcc.gc.ca

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