March 1, 2018
MacDonald-Laurier: Justice Report Card
Disproportionately high levels of Indigenous incarceration relative to the population are a problem in every jurisdiction in Canada, but are particularly acute in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.
There is a clear need for regular and ongoing monitoring of the performance of the criminal justice system in Canada to ensure transparency and accountability of this essential aspect of our governance. Further- more, monitoring enables provinces to evaluate their progress on key aspects of the justice system and to benchmark their performance vis a vis other jurisdictions in Canada.
We were encouraged in 2017 to learn that the federal Department of Justice has taken steps towards im- plementing our recommendation for a regular criminal justice report card by starting consultations on developing a performance framework for evaluating and monitoring the criminal justice system.
Some vital data on our criminal justice system is presently lacking and must be captured, including the following:
- More frequent data collection, ideally annually, from Statistics Canada on victims of crime (e.g., referral rates for victim services and criminal victimization data); the views of Canadians on how well the police, courts, and criminal justice system are performing; and the cost of public safety per capita;
- Many important aspects of our criminal justice system are not currently being monitored national- ly, but should be. For example, Statistics Canada should report annually on the number of criminal cases stayed due to unreasonable delay, recidivism rates, and the proportion of Indigenous offend- ers who are incarcerated;
- The territories should be included in all criminal justice data. Presently, there is no data collected by Statistics Canada for the Yukon, Northwest Territories, or Nunavut on public perceptions of the police, justice system, or courts; and
- All provinces and territories should annually report the number of Indigenous people who are incarcerated, including new custodial admissions. Lack of reporting has been problematic for Alberta.
A well-functioning, fair, and just criminal justice system is vital to Canadians. It is crucial that better data, performance monitoring, and accountability become not only accepted, but expected, as part of our crim- inal justice system. We hope that by once again bringing some focused attention to the major strengths and shortcomings of the criminal justice system in each province and territory that necessary reforms will be introduced to improve public safety, support for victims, better management of costs and resources, greater efficiency, and provide greater fairness and access to justice.