Backgrounder Article from  Justice Canada

Justice Highlights of 2016

Below is a list of key accomplishments for the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada in 2016:

Legislation

Together with the Minister of Health, introduced and supported Parliament’s enactment of legislation to permit medical assistance in dying for individuals who are suffering intolerably and are on an irreversible decline towards death.

Introduced and supported the passage by the House of Commons of Bill C-16 to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Criminal Code and Canadian Human Rights Act. This Bill is now before the Senate.

Introduced legislation (Bill C-32) to amend the Criminal Code to repeal section 159 to remove discriminatory provisions surrounding consensual sexual activity.

Introduced legislation to amend the Criminal Code to provide an exemption from the Federal Victim Surcharge for offenders who are truly unable to pay.

Judicial appointments process

The Minister supported the Prime Minister in developing a new open and transparent process for filling vacancies at the Supreme Court of Canada with functionally bilingual candidates. This resulted in the appointment of the first Supreme Court Justice from Newfoundland and Labrador, Justice Malcolm Rowe.

Reformed the judicial appointments process for superior courts to ensure merit based appointments through an open, transparent and accountable process that will promote diversity and gender balance in the judiciary and strengthen bilingual capacity. Changes include:

  • introducing diversity and unconscious bias training for members of the judicial advisory committees (JACs) who create the shortlist of judicial applicants,
  • restoring the right of judicial members on the JACs to vote
  • re-introducing the "highly recommended" category,
  • reconstituting the JACs - through an open and transparent process designed to ensure greater diversity, where members of the public can apply to be one of the Minister’s nominees,
  • providing for the collection and publishing of statistics and demographic information on both applicants for and appointments to judicial office to measure whether Canada is meeting its diversity goals,
  • ensuring the selection process better assesses bilingual capacity, and
  • requiring all applicants, including provincial court judges, to undergo the same assessment to ensure fairness in the application process.

Judicial Appointments

Filled 39 judicial vacancies, bringing the current national vacancy rate to 3.5 percent. Women represented 56 percent of the appointments, which included two members of visible minorities and three Indigenous people.

Elevated four judges to courts of appeal.

Appointed 22 Deputy Judges in the North.

Appointed three Regional Senior Judges in Ontario.

Review of Litigation Strategy

The litigation review includes adopting a recognition of rights approach to litigation with Indigenous peoples‎; abandoning appeals in a number of Charter cases; and seeking to work collaboratively with litigants to explore policy and legislative changes. To end appeals and positions not consistent with the Government’s commitments and values or the Charter, the Government:

  • adopted, where possible, a more conciliatory approach to litigation with Indigenous peoples (ex. Haida, Ignace),
  • intervened in Ktunaxa to outline the important interrelationship between freedom of religion and Indigenous rights,
  • sought leave to Intervene in Nacho Nyak Dun v. Yukon to outline the government’s principles and objectives in respecting the nation-to-nation relationship and reconciliation between governments and indigenous peoples.
  • abandoned the appeal in Gariepy (from Quebec C.A.), a constitutional challenge to denial of right to an in-person hearing upon suspension of parole
  • abandoned the Niqab appeal (re. wearing of Niqab during citizenship ceremony)
  • abandoned the appeal of Omar Khadr’s bail
  • abandoned the previous government’s appeal of the federal government’s obligation to cover refugee health care costs

As part of the Minister’s mandate to review the government’s litigation strategy, she made the recommendation that a Cabinet Committee on Litigation be formed to address significant and cross-government policy issues, and ensure litigation instructions reflect the government’s policy direction, mandate and values. This Cabinet Committee will review litigation from many angles, including finance, policy and law, and will be an opportunity for Ministers to provide input more broadly.

Criminal Justice System Review & Reform

Conducted roundtables in eight of the thirteen provinces and territories to hear local practices and suggestions for improving the system.

Announced funding over the next five years to advance victim services and access to justice for victims and their families.

Increased funding for legal aid, with an additional $88 million over five years for criminal legal aid to the provinces and criminal and civil legal aid to the territories, with an additional $30 million ongoing after that.

Increased funding for the Indigenous Courtwork Program by an additional $4 million per year to assist Indigenous people facing the criminal justice system.

Nation-to Nation and Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples

UNDRIP: Endorsed without qualification the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and prioritized the implementation of UNDRIP in Canada with the aim of building a true nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples.

Launched, in collaboration with the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs and the Minister of Status of Women, a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Announced two new investments to increase support for Indigenous victims and survivors of crime and the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women:

  • $11.67 million over three years for Family Information Liaison Units (FILUs) to be established within provincial and territorial victim services as "one-stop shops" for families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls seeking information about their loved ones
  • $4.5 million over four years, in addition to an existing $1 million per year, to Indigenous organizations to provide community-based, trauma-informed assistance for families of missing or murdered Indigenous women to increase access to trauma or grief counselling, cultural ceremonies, workshops for families or local or regional family gatherings

Delivered the Annual Reconciliation Lecture at the Australian National University, the first non-Australian to have done so.

Tasked by the Prime Minister in December 2016 to undertake, with colleagues, a review of federal laws and policies that impact the rights of Indigenous peoples to ensure their alignment with the government’s commitment to a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples.

Other important accomplishments:

Together with the Ministers of Health and Public Safety, launched the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, with a view to legalizing, strictly regulating, and restricting access to cannabis.

On December 1, World AIDS Day, announced an effort to reduce stigma and discrimination against those living with HIV or AIDS by committing to work with the provinces and territories, affected communities and medical professionals to examine the criminal justice system’s response to the non-disclosure of HIV status.


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