A fair and impartial justice system is a crucial cornerstone of any safe, stable society. But too often, Canada’s justice system has suffered from partisan politics, unevenly applied laws, and outright racism. The results have been devastating. Indigenous Peoples make up 3% of the population in Canada, but they account for one out of every four prisoners. More than one in ten male inmates and one out of every three female inmates suffers from a mental health problem. Racialized minorities and low-income Canadians are far more likely than other Canadians to be incarcerated. We as a country need to stop turning a blind eye to the gross injustices of our criminal justice system.
Too many victims are coming out bruised by their experiences with the criminal justice system, while the lives of too many inmates are being destroyed rather than transformed. Charlie has a plan to reform the justice system to improve the experience of victims, especially women reporting sexual assault or violence. Charlie’s plan also includes policies to address prevention, alternatives to incarceration, ensure the system is focused on reducing recidivism through humane treatment of prisoners, and takes an approach to drugs focused on harm reduction. Because nobody wins when our justice system is broken.
Charlie’s plan will:
Address the challenges faced by Indigenous Peoples in the justice system
Indigenous people are the most over-represented group in Canada’s criminal justice system. Inequities in bail, juries, and sentencing contribute to these conditions. Charlie will reform bail procedures for everyone, and particularly ensure that Indigenous people have equitable access to bail, and work with Indigenous governments to expand Indigenous representation on juries. The Gladue report system for sentencing is dramatically under-resourced, with only a few dozen researchers and writers across the country, even though these reports are mandatory in cases involving Indigenous people. Charlie will ensure that the legal rights of Indigenous people are respected, everywhere in Canada.
Work towards restorative justice
If the purpose of incarceration is deterrence and fighting recidivism, our prisons are doing a very poor job. New Democrats believe that justice means that people come out of the system better and stronger people than they were before – Charlie will work to fund restorative justice programs that are victim-sensitive and include community concerns, including family group conferencing and sentencing circles.
Make harm reduction and public health the central pillars of treatment of addictions
The war on drugs has proven itself a failure with immense human and financial costs. For a generation, it has failed both individuals with addictions and the public good. In a time when opioid addictions and overdoses are causing hundreds of deaths a year, we need to move past stigma and punishment to craft policies that seek to help and heal individuals and communities. Harm reduction-based programs like supervised injection, needle exchanges, and safe injection sites have proven results and promote access to testing, counselling, and healthy living. Charlie will promote harm reduction programs across the country to reduce rates of HIV and Hep C and help individuals on their road to recovery. Charlie will also work to provide safe access programs for people suffering from addictions. Finally, Charlie will decriminalize the possession of drugs for personal use, following the recommendations of an all-party task force appointed to design a made-in-Canada model of decriminalization that works for communities everywhere in our country. The priorities of this task force would be to determine thresholds of acceptable possession, how best to help people living with addictions access treatment, how to combat the social stigma of addictions that keeps people from seeking treatment, and to ensure that decriminalization is carried out equitably.
End discriminatory law enforcement and detention practices
Charlie will enact an immediate ban on carding, eliminate the so-called ‘No-Fly List,’ and substantially reform the bail system to ensure equal access. Charlie will also end the use of segregation as a means of dealing with the symptoms of mentally ill patients and ensure that they have access to appropriate mental health care instead. And Charlie will ensure that women who become mothers in federal prisons have access to mother-baby units, so that they can develop close, healthy bonds with their children, despite the experience of being incarcerated.
Ensure that courts are trauma-competent
Too often, victims of sexual assault face barriers to justice in a system that often re-victimizes them on the stand. Charlie will mandate trauma competence training for courts and court officials to ensure that justice is carried out.
Implement the Philadelphia model of Advocate Case Review for violence against women
The city of Philadelphia has implemented a program which allows outside advocates to audit violence against women cases on an annual basis. This system ensures that police are adequately investigating cases and pressing charges where warranted, a model that is quickly emerging as the new standard for police departments. Charlie will put forward legislation requiring police services under federal jurisdiction to implement standard and routine review procedures for cases that do not yield charges, developed in partnership with community-based sexual assault advocates, to ensure that these were not dropped because of myths about sexual assault or trauma. Charlie will also encourage cities and provinces to implement this model to ensure that law enforcement all over the country follows best practices.
Improve conditions in remand
Remand centres, which hold accused offenders before their sentencing, lack social resources, especially for women, youth and Indigenous peoples. This time spent in custody can be lengthy, especially with the current backlog of cases across the country. We also now know that many of the people incarcerated in this country have a mental illness. Access to programs, with a focus on mental health, needs to become a priority for federal institutions. Charlie will fight to change the prison system to create better outcomes for communities.