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PRESS RELEASE: FEDERAL/PROVINCIAL/TERRITORIAL MINISTERS DISCUSS KEY JUSTICE AND PUBLIC SAFETY ISSUES FACING CANADIANS

CHARLOTTETOWN, January 26, 2012 – Federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) ministers responsible for justice and public safety concluded their meeting today, after in-depth discussions on key justice and public safety issues currently facing Canadians.

The meeting was co-chaired by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., the Minister of Public Safety, Vic Toews, P.C., Q.C., and the Minister of Environment, Labour and Justice and Attorney General of Prince Edward Island, Janice Sherry.

Violence Against Aboriginal Women and Girls                                     
In July 2011 at a meeting of the Council of the Federation, provincial and territorial ministers were asked to consider the root causes of violence against Aboriginal women and girls. Ministers discussed the ongoing work to address the serious issue of violence against Aboriginal women and girls, and invited the federal government to be part of this work and further discussed linkages with other sectors. They agreed to continue to collaborate and develop a common approach. 

Missing Women Working Group Final Report
Ministers recognized the progress in examining issues related to the serious concerns surrounding murdered and missing women.  They supported the release of the Missing Women Working Group’s final report and noted that some recommendations have already been implemented. Ministers asked the working group to bring forward an implementation plan and reiterated their commitment to continue to coordinate their efforts on this important issue.  The report is available at www.scics.gc.ca.

Child Pornography and Investigative Complexities
All ministers agreed on the need to enhance and modernize the investigative capability of law enforcement. This is particularly important when dealing with online child exploitation offences and child pornography cases. Provincial and territorial ministers urged the federal government to move forward on enacting previously introduced legislation, specifically former Bill C-52 (Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act), former Bill C-51 (Investigative Powers for the 21st Century Act) and former Bill C-50 (Improving Access to Investigative Tools for Serious Crimes Act).  The federal government was also asked to consider increasing the current 21 day data preservation periods for foreign requests to at least 90 days to help law enforcement deal with complex child pornography cases. The federal government welcomed the support of provinces and territories and noted its intention to reintroduce the bills soon.

Proposed Amendments to the Criminal Code
Ministers discussed amending the Criminal Code to address issues such as home invasion, car-jacking, and the unlawful use of body armour or fortified vehicles or buildings and mandatory minimum penalties for pre-meditated knife crimes. One jurisdiction raised concerns about mandatory minimum penalties. Ministers agreed that these matters should be referred to senior officials for their consideration and to provide recommendations back to Ministers.  Ministers also received a status report on the ongoing work to update the corruption provisions of the Criminal Code.

Mental Health and Justice
Ministers acknowledged that mental health issues present significant challenges for the justice system.  Ministers highlighted the success of the May 2011 Mental Health and Justice Symposium in Alberta and discussed the Symposium’s recommendations.  Ministers asked senior officials to further engage their health and social service counterparts in reviewing the recommendations and developing a workplan with the view of more effectively managing this at-risk population.

Drug Treatment Court
Ministers acknowledged the value and importance of coordinated federal, provincial and territorial funding for drug treatment courts as an alternative model for drug addicted offenders within the criminal justice system. Provincial and territorial ministers urged continued federal funding for the existing drug treatment courts. There was also a request to consider expanding the program for such courts and other therapeutic courts.  The federal Minister of Justice indicated that he would take these concerns under advisement.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and Access to Justice
Ministers agreed that the response of the justice system to those with FASD continues to be a priority and noted the importance of prevention. Ministers directed FPT officials to continue to work together to explore how to best respond to individuals with FASD.

Northern and Remote Justice
Ministers noted the challenges and opportunities faced by the territories and most provinces related to the administration of justice in northern and remote regions. Ministers directed senior officials to continue their joint efforts in raising the profile and responding to these issues.  A conference on northern and remote policing will be held in the fall of 2012 in the Yukon.

National Police Services
Ministers discussed the importance of the RCMP National Police Services which provides specialized investigational support services to more than 500 law enforcement and criminal justice agencies across Canada. Ministers endorsed the establishment of a National Police Services Advisory Committee that will include representation from the provinces, territories and the RCMP.  The Advisory Committee will be co-chaired by a provincial or territorial representative.

Economics of Policing
Ministers discussed the challenges of the escalating costs of policing and the work underway to improve efficiency and effectiveness. Ministers supported enhanced information sharing among jurisdictions on best practices and stressed the importance of collaboration among all law enforcement partners to fight the root causes of crime.  All ministers expressed support for a National Summit on the Economics of Policing in fall 2012.

Police Officers Recruitment Fund
Ministers discussed the effectiveness of the Police Officers Recruitment Fund, which has assisted provinces and territories in increasing police resources for community safety and combatting organized crime.  Provincial and territorial ministers expressed their desire for the fund to be extended past March 31, 2013 on a permanent basis. The federal Minister of Public Safety indicated that the government had delivered on its five year funding commitment but agreed to bring this forward for government consideration.

First Nations Policing Program
Ministers discussed the First Nations Policing Program, recognizing its importance in addressing challenges to public safety in First Nation and Inuit communities.  Provincial and territorial ministers underlined the importance and effectiveness of the Program. They emphasized the need for sustainability and for expanding the program including to the North. The federal government acknowledged the importance of this program in Aboriginal communities and agreed to work with all jurisdictions on this matter recognizing the current environment of fiscal restraint. 

RCMP Referral to Victims Services
All ministers agreed on the importance of providing victims of crime with information and quick access to victim services. Provincial and territorial ministers asked the federal government to consider regulatory reform to ensure that the RCMP can share victim information with provincial and territorial victim services. Ministers look forward to receiving recommendations from senior officials on a long-term sustainable solution for the issue.

Federal Legislative Reform Items
Ministers discussed the implementation of Bill C-10 and acknowledged that many of the reforms in Bill C-10 have been the subject of previous discussions over the past several years, in which several jurisdictions have expressed support for these reforms. One jurisdiction expressed its concern with two provisions concerning youth justice and some provinces and territories voiced the importance of prevention in conjunction with enforcement and sentencing measures. In addition, provincial and territorial ministers noted that their concerns focus primarily on the elements of C-10 which may result in additional pressures on the justice system, including the need for increased funding. The provinces and territories presented a resolution in regards to collaboration and consultation. Provincial and territorial ministers expressed concerns with respect to notification of proclamation dates and requested that the federal government improve their protocols for notifying the provinces and territories in a timely manner of the coming into force of legislation.  Federal ministers agreed on the need for continued collaborative dialogue in managing the shared FPT responsibility in criminal justice. Federal Ministers stated that the views of the provinces and territories will be considered regarding the coming into force of amendments included in Bill C-10 and that a staggered implementation of amendments to the Criminal Code, Youth Criminal Justice Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act within a reasonable time will facilitate preparation for implementation for all jurisdictions.

Long-Gun Registry Data
Quebec reiterated its previous request to transfer to the province all non-restricted firearms registry records related to its residents. Support for this request was expressed by some jurisdictions.

Legal Aid
Ministers affirmed their commitment to a responsive, fair, efficient and accessible justice system which includes access to legal aid and referenced the common statement of principles approved in October 2010. Provincial and territorial ministers asked the federal Minister of Justice for continued and enhanced federal funding support for criminal legal aid to address the continued pressures faced by all legal aid programs. They asked for early confirmation of the level of federal funding given that existing agreements expire at the end of March 2012. Provincial and territorial ministers also noted the need for renewed and enhanced funding for immigration and refugee legal aid for those jurisdictions offering such services.

Trafficking in Persons
The Government of Canada presented an overview of its draft National Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons and invited input from the Provinces and Territories. The federal government will regularly report on its progress.

Family Property and Bankruptcy and the Divorce Law
Provincial and territorial ministers identified the need to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act to ensure persons who declare bankruptcy are not relieved of obligations under provincial marital property legislation. The Federal Justice Minister agreed to raise the issue with his federal colleagues. The federal Minister of Justice acknowledged a request for amendments to section 25.1 of the Divorce Act and took the request under advisement.

Justice System Reform, Prevention and Rehabilitation

In discussing priorities for their work moving forward, Ministers identified the need to collaborate in achieving justice system reform.  Ministers acknowledged the importance of substantive law reform, but also acknowledged the need to identify process reforms that will improve efficiency and increase system capacity.  There was also discussion of increasing court capacity by moving non-criminal matters out of the courts, to increase capacity of the system to address more serious offences.  Ministers also discussed the importance of prevention as an effective means to reduce crime and thus victimization.

Ministers requested senior officials to establish two committees – one on prevention and rehabilitation and the other on access to justice and justice system reform. 

Ministers also discussed the Canada–U.S. Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan, countering violent extremism and random breath testing.

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Julie Di Mambro                                    Julie Carmichael
Press Secretary                                    Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Justice          Office of the Minister of Public Safety
613-992-4621                                       613-991-2865

Media Relations Office                        Media Relations Office
Department of Justice                         Public Safety Canada
613-957-4207                                       613-991-0657