Policy

Criminal Justice Reform Agenda

Canadians deserve a justice system that is fair, respects human rights, and contributes to safer communities for all. 

Criminal Justice Reform Agenda

The evidence is clear: the so-called “tough on crime” approach is costly, harmful and ineffective. This approach and the accompanying incarceration-focused system, removes judicial discretion and is geared towards punishment rather than rehabilitation.

As Prime Minister, Jagmeet Singh will prioritize compassion over criminalization and will re-orient the criminal justice and correctional systems toward equality, rehabilitation, and restorative justice.

AN IMMEDIATE END TO SOLITARY CONFINEMENT


In accordance with the UN prohibition of torture, and the considerable evidence that shows the detrimental psychological and physical effects of solitary confinement, a Jagmeet-led NDP will call for:

  • An immediate end to the use of solitary confinement, administrative segregation or any other term referring to the long-term confinement of an inmate for 15 days without exercise and meaningful contact with other people in federal prisons. Furthermore, Jagmeet commits to eliminating the use of solitary confinement as a punishment or sanction entirely in federal prisons by 2021, beginning with an immediate end to its use for inmates between the ages of 18-30 and for those with existing mental health conditions.  

  • In the interim, ensuring all prisoners have adequate access to due process and regular review for the use of any short-term confinement

  • Ensuring all federal inmates receive proper healthcare in prison, including access to mental health services, HIV treatment and medication, and harm reduction treatment for drug users

JUSTICE ADVOCATES PROGRAM


More must be done to reform the treatment of inmates at correctional institutions. As Prime Minister, Jagmeet will establish a justice advocates program of lawyers and trained and qualified non-lawyers, to act as representatives of and advocates for inmates in federal institutions.

Jagmeet will also:

  • Work with trans rights advocates, inmates, and federal prisons’ administration and oversight to ensure safe and gender appropriate incarceration for trans inmates and non-binary inmates, without resorting to solitary confinement

  • Work with disability rights advocates, disabled inmates and federal prisons’ administration and oversight to improve accessibility services in jails

END TO HARPER’S MANDATORY MINIMUM SENTENCING


In accordance with recommendations by the John Howard Society and other prisoner advocacy groups, Jagmeet Singh commits to ensuring proportionate and effective penalties through:

  • Ending Harper's possessive mandatory minimum penalties and ensuring judicial discretion in sentencing

  • Ending Harper's possessive mandatory monetary penalties, surcharges, and fines

  • Prioritizing community-based sentencing alternatives to prison sentences

  • Instituting an independent review process for those who may have been wrongfully convicted

RESTORATIVE JUSTICE


Rates of recidivism are high in prison systems that do not focus on rehabilitation. A focus on restorative justice is not only more humane, it is more effective. To this end, as Prime Minister Jagmeet will:

  • Invest in prison programs that provide effective educational opportunities, life skills, technological know-how and job training (certification programs) as well as employment opportunities and prisoner-based co-operatives

  • Support graduated, safe and supported reintegration of prisoners

  • Support restorative justice initiatives including redress and restitution whenever possible

  • Reverse Harper's 2010 and 2012 Amendments to the Criminal Records Act to restore pardons

  • Review the Criminal Code with a mandate to revise sentencing guidelines that prioritize rehabilitation over punishment

MANDATORY TRAINING FOR LAWYERS AND JUDGES


Jagmeet is committed to working with the Federation of Law Societies to:

  • Implement and fund training for judges and trial lawyers on the Gladue principle, which refers to a right that Indigenous Peoples have under section 718.2 (e) of the Criminal Code. It is a sentencing principle that recognizes that Indigenous Peoples face racism and systemic discrimination in and out of the criminal law system, and attempts to deal with the crisis of overrepresentation and inequities Indigenous Peoples face in custody, through changing how judges sentence. Gladue instructs judges, when sentencing or setting bail, to consider “all available sanctions other than imprisonment that are reasonable in the circumstances, with particular attention to the circumstances of Aboriginal offenders.” Gladue gives judges discretion to use sanctions outside of the mainstream prisons for Indigenous Peoples.

  • Ensure pre-sentencing cultural assessments are available for and applied to all Black Canadians before the criminal justice system

  • Ensure lawyers with experience with marginalized and vulnerable segments of the Canadian population, including those from the LGTBQI2S+ community,  will be given preference in judicial appointments and that judges will receive anti-bias education and training by experts in the field

EQUALITY AND ACCESS TO JUSTICE


Access to justice in our society should not depend on economic standing. Unfortunately, right now the poorest among us are the most vulnerable to miscarriages of justice.

Too many working people earn just enough money to be disqualified from legal aid, but not enough money to cover the costs of a lawyer.

Denial of bail has become far too commonplace, compromising the Charter right to not be denied reasonable bail without just cause, as well as the Charter right to presumption of innocence. This has led to the incarceration of large amounts of people awaiting trial, and it is the most marginalized who pay the heaviest price.

That’s why as Prime Minister, Jagmeet will move in his first budget to:

  • Act on the Canadian Bar Association’s guiding principles to establish a national, integrated system of public legal assistance. This public legal assistance system will focus on improving access to justice and meeting the needs of disadvantaged people, particularly marginalized communities, across Canada.

  • Make the necessary investments to ensure all Canadians living at and below the poverty line are eligible for full coverage of essential public legal services

  • Act to ensure that refugees and migrant workers have access to legal aid

  • Strike a commission to advise on and implement revising the regulations that currently govern bail with a commitment to return to the Charter’s principles of presumption of innocence and access to reasonable bail for all. This commission will also perform a review of the costs incurred by, and services available to, families of the incarcerated.

  • Initiate a systematic overhaul of service standards and delivery at federal incarceration institutions

ADDRESS UNREASONABLE DELAY 


To address unreasonable delay in the administration of criminal justice, a Jagmeet Singh-led government will ask the aforementioned commission to advise on amending rules and procedure to ensure that judges can more fairly and efficiently conduct trials.

Once the amendments are confirmed judges will receive the requisite training to implement them in a fair manner compliant with the Charter. The amendments will respond to the Supreme Court’s recent rulings in Jordan and Cody where there has been a request to replace a culture of complacency.

Judges will be given wider authority to review prosecutorial discretion especially in jurisdictions stifled with delay. Judges will prioritize the hearing of trials for more serious offences such as those involving violence or serious bodily or psychological harm. This will reduce the risk of these most serious cases being stayed for unreasonable delay.

JUST RESPONSES TO THOSE IN DISTRESS


It is also long past time for Canada to move away from criminalization and adopt effective non-criminal justice system responses for those with mental health problems.

As the recent killings of Andrew Loku, Pierre Coriolan, and Abdirahman Abdi make painfully obvious, police should not be the first responders to those suffering mental health crises. That’s why Jagmeet will:

  • Partner with the Provinces, Territories, and municipalities to prioritize building capacity of mental health crisis teams focused on de-escalation

  • Fund a pilot project for mobile prevention crisis teams that do not include law enforcement

  • Fund training for law enforcement in de-escalation practices based on new federal guidelines

DECRIMINALIZING SEX WORK 


In keeping with the Supreme Court of Canada’s unanimous decision in Bedford v. Canada, Jagmeet is determined to end the criminalization of sex work that puts so many at risk.