Oct. 30, 2009
FREDERICTON (CNB) - Federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for justice and public safety concluded their annual meeting today following after in-depth discussions about key justice and public safety issues facing Canadians.
The meeting was co-chaired by Justice and Consumer Affairs Minister Michael Murphy; Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General John W. Foran; federal Justice Minister and Attorney General Rob Nicholson; and federal Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan.
Ministers received an overview of recent federal legislative initiatives. They acknowledged the progress made on combating crime, noting in particular Bill C-25 (truth in sentencing), Bill C-14 (organized crime and the protection of justice system participants) and S-4 (identity theft). They agreed on the need for the following priority reforms to address organized crime: bail reform; wire tap reform; drug trafficking reform; and the pre-trial process.
The ministers acknowledged the seriousness of major economic crime and the affect on victims. They agreed on the need to work together and support co-ordinated actions.
The ministers discussed challenges related to addressing victimization of Aboriginal people as well as a range of family law issues. They continued discussion on access to justice for persons with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).
In recognition of the importance of access for children to both parents, the ministers indicated their support for releasing Facilitating access: Report of the family justice working group on parenting and contact enforcement and jurisdiction.
The ministers discussed the sentencing of repeat impaired-driving offenders and acknowledged the seriousness of this issue. They discussed justice-effectiveness issues such as jury reform, self-represented accused, electronic disclosure, a report related to self-defence, and changes to simplify the search warrant application process. They also discussed the development of national guidelines for conducted-energy weapons.
Changing face of corrections
The ministers discussed the need to continue addressing the changing face of corrections in Canada. They acknowledged that progress has been made, specifically the passage of Bill C-25, which limits credit for time served in remand.
The ministers agreed to continue joint work on the sharing of best practices through heads of corrections across Canada.
Mental health and justice
The ministers acknowledged the need to address the increasing challenges related to mental-health issues in the criminal justice system. They recognized that consultation with their respective health and social services departments is critical. They agreed to make this topic a standing agenda item for their future meetings, and they called on officials to begin discussions when they next meet in January 2010.
The ministers were updated on the ongoing efforts to modernize the RCMP, where governance and accountability continue to be at the forefront. The most recent report from the RCMP Reform Implementation Council was noted, including its positive assessment of the reform to date. The provincial and territorial ministers reiterated the importance of continuing discussions on the RCMP review and complaints body as well as the creation of any future board of management.
First Nations Policing Program
The ministers were provided with an update on the First Nations Policing Program and the current comprehensive review of the program.
The provincial and territorial ministers unanimously endorsed a resolution asking the federal government to reaffirm its commitment to the First Nations Policing Program. All jurisdictions agreed to support the work of the comprehensive review.
The provincial and territorial ministers acknowledged the special circumstances of policing in the North and the need to develop a unique Northern policing framework.
Police Officers Recruitment Fund
The provincial and territorial ministers reiterated their position for permanent federal funding for the Police Officers Recruitment Fund. Van Loan indicated that the federal government had delivered on its commitment to provide a one-time allocation to help the provinces and territories in a manner that respects their responsibility for the administration of policing. It was agreed that this item will be on the agenda for the next ministerial meeting.
The ministers agreed to extend the criminal legal aid contribution agreements for another year, to 2010-11, and to prepare a federal-provincial-territorial business case on criminal legal aid in the fall of 2010 for presentation.
The provincial and territorial ministers argued that there is a lack of federal funding for civil legal aid and that there is an immediate need for additional immigration and refugee legal aid funding. Nicholson reiterated the position of the federal government: that funds for civil legal aid are part of the Canada Social Transfer; and that the federal government is examining the request for increased funding for immigration and refugee legal aid.
The provincial and territorial ministers indicated that they would continue to work on the business case for civil legal aid for presentation next fall.
The ministers acknowledged the seriousness of the issue of missing persons - particularly Aboriginal women and girls - and acknowledged the efforts of those who reach out to victims. They directed officials to report back on efforts to create a national information database of missing persons.
MEDIA CONTACTS: Mary Moszynski, communications, Department of Justice and Consumer Affairs, 506-444-3153; Pamela Stephens, press secretary, Office of the federal Minister of Justice, 613-992-4621; media relations, federal Department of Justice, 613-957-4207.