Thank you, Mr. Chair. Certainly I always appreciate being in front of this committee, and I look forward to answering questions after I make some brief remarks.
Of course I want to acknowledge the territory of the Algonquin people.
For your benefit, Mr. Chair, and the benefit of the committee, I will note that I am joined by William Pentney, deputy minister of justice and deputy attorney general; Nathalie Drouin, associate deputy minister; Donald Piragoff, senior assistant deputy minister; and Johanne Bernard, assistant deputy minister and chief financial officer.
Today I'd like to talk to you about how the Department of Justice Canada intends to use its funds granted through 2017-18 main estimates to ensure a fair, relevant, and accessible Canadian justice system and a federal government that is supported by high-quality legal services.
Mr. Chair, as you are aware, the Department of Justice has a total budgetary authority of $656.1 million through 2017-18 main estimates. This represents a decrease of $22.7 million from main estimates of the previous fiscal year. However, early this morning our government tabled the 2017-18 supplementary estimates (A). These include $45.9 million announced in budget 2017 for the Department of Justice, which offsets the previously mentioned decrease resulting in proposed authorities in the amount of $702.1 million to date.
In addition to the budgetary authority, the department is also granted a vote netted revenue authority of $296.2 million to collect fees to offset a portion of the cost of legal services offered to other government departments.
Some of the $385 million of this year's authority will be used to help support the stewardship of the Canadian legal framework by directing funding to the provinces and territories.
The 2017-18 main estimates also indicate departmental operational expenditures of $234.3 million.
Mr. Chair, as the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of Canada, I take my responsibilities and accountabilities very seriously. I would now like to speak more broadly about how the budget authority granted to the Department of Justice through the main estimates will help support my role as the steward of the Canadian justice system and ambassador of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which celebrates its 35th anniversary this year.
First, my review of the criminal justice system is ongoing. It is intended to ensure that our criminal laws protect Canadians, hold offenders to account, meet the highest standards of equity and fairness, show respect for the charter, and show compassion to victims. This, in turn, will help promote a justice system that protects Canadians, their communities, and their rights.
In March I introduced legislation that would remove or amend provisions of the Criminal Code that have been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada and appellate courts and that have no force in law. Removing these and other invalid provisions will make the Criminal Code clearer and more accessible and will help Canadians, including those involved in the criminal justice system, to better understand the current state of the law.
This is the start of our modernization of the criminal justice system to ensure that it shows the greatest possible respect for the charter and that it promotes access to justice.
Earlier this year I also worked with my colleague the to reinstate and expand the court challenges program. This program will ensure that the government remains accountable for protecting official languages, upholding human rights, and promoting access to justice for Canadians who need it most.
More recently I have been discussing the Supreme Court's decision in Jordan with my provincial and territorial counterparts. That decision proposed new ceilings and an interim framework for assessing when an accused's charter right to be tried within a reasonable time has been infringed.
At our most recent federal-provincial-territorial meeting, we identified mandatory minimum penalties, bail, administration of justice offences, preliminary inquiries, and reclassification of offences as priorities for legislative reform. Along with this most recent ministerial meeting, there have been continuing and ongoing discussions on access to justice among provincial and territorial ministers of justice and public safety, as well as other officials. We are all committed to ensuring that our criminal justice system is efficient and effective, and that Canadians can have the utmost confidence in it.
Moreover, our government will continue to address vacancies in our superior courts. Our process for judicial appointments emphasizes transparency, merit, and diversity, as well as the highest standards of excellence and integrity. Additionally, budget 2017 proposes additional funding of $55 million over five years, beginning in 2017-18, and $5.5 million per year thereafter, for 28 new federally appointed judges.
Mr. Chair, I am also committed to doing my part to renew the Government of Canada's nation-to-nation relationship with indigenous peoples based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership. As a country, we know we have much work ahead of us in ensuring that indigenous peoples can take their rightful place within the Confederation. There is no question that indigenous peoples and communities are in a period of tremendous transformation and transition, rebuilding their nations. Our government recognizes that reconciliation requires an all-of-government approach, based on recognition of indigenous peoples and their rights, to address the colonial legacy in a substantive and meaningful way that will be transformative.
In addition to committing to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples without qualification, the recently established a working group of ministers to review all federal laws and policies. I am honoured to have been asked by the Prime Minister to chair this new working group. Our working group's mandate is nothing short of transformative: to decolonize federal laws, policies, and operational practices, and to ensure that all aspects of Canada's relationship with indigenous peoples are rooted in the recognition of rights.
Mr. Chair, our government has also included measures in budget 2017 to support the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's calls to action, including specific measures to address the overrepresentation of indigenous peoples in the criminal justice and correctional systems. Among these measures is the indigenous justice program, formerly the aboriginal justice strategy. Budget 2017 proposes to invest $55.5 million over five years, starting in 2017-18, as well as $11.1 million per year ongoing. This would provide long-term and stable investment in this program to encourage the use of community-based restorative justice approaches as an alternative to the criminal justice system and corrections.
Budget 2017 also proposes to provide $65.2 million over five years, beginning in 2017-18, and $10.9 million thereafter, to help reverse the trend of indigenous overrepresentation in Canada's criminal justice system and corrections, and to help previously incarcerated indigenous people heal, rehabilitate, and find good jobs.
Finally, Mr. Chair, the Government of Canada is unwavering in its commitment to ensuring that victims of sexual assault and gender-based violence are treated with the utmost respect and dignity. This commitment extends to Canada's judges and the judicial system. All Canadians should have confidence in the quality of Canada's judges and the judicial system.
To ensure that Canadian judges are sufficiently informed and sensitive to the evolving nature of Canadian society, as announced in budget 2017, our government increased funding to $2.7 million over five years, and $500,000 per year thereafter, for judicial training and judicial conduct with a gender and cultural lens. In addition, almost $100,000 in new funding from Justice Canada will be provided to the National Judicial Institute to develop training for both federally and provincially appointed judges that will focus on gender-based violence, including sexual assault and domestic violence.
Moreover, the Department of Justice Canada will continue to fund programs and services to support survivors of sexual assault and gender-based violence, and will continue to work with Status of Women Canada on the federal strategy on gender-based violence.
To date, Justice Canada has approved more than $10 million in funding to 46 projects over three years. Its ongoing review of the criminal justice system, as I mentioned earlier, will include a review of Criminal Code provisions related to sexual assault and consent.
To conclude, I certainly would like to thank your committee for the important work that you continue to do. Thank you for the opportunity to provide these opening remarks and overview. I look forward to answering any questions that the members may have.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Yes, in addition to the revamping of the judicial appointments process, I and my officials have been speaking with many different jurisdictions around the need to have additional judicial spaces, and as you articulated, I was very pleased to see in the budget that we received the dollars for 28 new judicial spaces.
Twelve of the 28 have been allocated to Alberta, one to the Yukon, and my officials and I are continuing to work with other jurisdictions to understand their business case and need for additional judicial spaces. We will be continuing to do this work to allocate the remaining spots.
Broadly speaking, in terms of your question with respect to the Jordan decision from the Supreme Court of Canada, this is definitely a concern of mine and my counterpart ministers of justice and attorneys general across the country. We had the opportunity as recently as two weeks ago, I believe, to meet collectively and talk specifically about delays, and how we can assist each other in our shared responsibility for the administration of justice.
Without question, my counterparts talk to me about the need to have judicial appointments in their jurisdictions, but they also recognize that there's no one solution to delays in the criminal justice system, and we collectively identified a number of priorities we would address that seek to assist in reducing delays, priorities around minimal penalties, bail, the administration of justice, looking at the reclassification of offences, and preliminary inquiries.
I was very pleased with the collaborative approach that we were able to achieve at that meeting, and I look forward to the work we're going to be bringing forward in the near future and into the fall.
Thank you, Minister, for coming to the committee.
I was recently watching a panel discussion in which you and the were discussing the proposed marijuana legislation. I forget who the host was. Of particular interest to me was a comment you made, that you had not ever been a cannabis user, nor did you expect to be after this legislation was passed.
I have two questions for you.
First, why is it not a good thing for you, but it's okay for others—even for the youth of our society—to have access to cannabis as a recreational drug? I commend you for your personal position.
Second, I'm looking at the legislation your government has presented so far in the last year and a half, which you say you're very proud of. Bill , the medical assistance in dying legislation, now allows Canadians to legally have their lives terminated with the assistance of a physician. Bill addresses what I think is an imaginary gap in both our Canadian Human Rights Act and our Criminal Code. Bill repeals section 159 of the Criminal Code, which addresses anal sex. Bill , which repeals the Respect for Communities Act, will now make it easier for safe injection sites to be located in different communities across Canada. The most recent one, Bill , is of course on the legalization of marijuana.
My question on all those issues is, I think, quite simple. These pieces of legislation seem to have a particular theme to them. I'm wondering what it is that motivates your government to, in my opinion, be so bent on and recklessly determined to destroy our social and moral fabric?
Our government is committed to ensuring that we uphold the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, ensuring that everybody has the freedom to be themselves, and ensuring that every individual is accorded the same respect and dignity in a country as great as Canada.
As Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of Canada, I will not ever apologize for putting legislation forward that provides the means for individuals who qualify to access medical assistance in dying. I will not apologize for ensuring I protect the rights of those who have a different gender identity or expression. Section 159 of the Criminal Code has been deemed unconstitutional, and we are going to move that legislation forward.
Again, we as a government are making decisions that ensure that we uphold what makes this country great, which is its diversity. We benefit from having a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and it is my most important job to ensure that we uphold those rights. If I didn't do that, I wouldn't be doing my job. I will not apologize for those pieces of legislation, but I will stand up and shout from the rooftops as to the substantive public policy that stands behind each of those pieces of legislation and those bills. I would be happy to have a conversation with you, sir, about the public policy reasons behind all of those pieces of legislation.
As to whether or not I've smoked cannabis, that is completely irrelevant. What is relevant is the public policy reason for putting forward Bill . That is to ensure that when we legalize, strictly regulate, and restrict access to marijuana, that we do better than the status quo right now, and ensure that we keep it out of the hands of kids, and keep the proceeds out of the hands of criminals.
If you want to challenge me on the public policy reasons behind the legislation, I'm happy to engage in that discussion.