File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS Police tape is shown in Toronto. The Justice Department is asking Canadians to think beyond their preconceived notions about crimes — and the people who commit them — as the Liberal government readies long-promised reforms to the criminal justice system.

Justice reform consultations ask Canadians to think beyond law-and-order

OTTAWA — The Justice Department is asking Canadians to think beyond their preconceived notions about crimes — and the people who commit them — as the Liberal government readies long-promised reforms to the criminal justice system.

The interactive online consultation includes a survey asking participants to weigh in on a number of stories, such as one about a young single father caught stealing $800 from his employer, resulting in a criminal record that makes it harder for him to find a job.

The survey notes that theft under $5,000 makes up a quarter of all Criminal Code offences and asks participants to consider whether the judge should have considered other options, such as a requirement to repay the money or attend a community-based program where the young man would get support.

Throughout the exercise, there are statistics and other details meant to deepen understanding of the issues being addressed.

That includes the fact administration of justice violations — such as someone drinking or breaking curfew while on probation — make up 23 per cent of all cases in criminal court, or that the crime rate in Canada has been generally on the decline for decades.

Carissima Mathen, a University of Ottawa law professor, said the consultation could help to educate the public while at the same time preparing them for potentially controversial criminal justice reforms on the horizon.

“I think it is useful for any government to have a sense of where the real sites of public resistance or apprehension are in criminal justice policy,” said Mathen.

She said Liberal government has made it clear they are planning a different approach than the tough-on-crime agenda the previous Conservative government brought in — despite repeatedly pushing back the timeline for action — but that could come with its own challenges.

“I think (the Liberals) know very well that public opinion can be whipped up to support that in ways that don’t actually comport with the evidence of crime in Canada,” she said.

Another section of the consultation lets Canadians watch a video of a real-life personal story, such as a family affected by court delays following the homicide of their son, or the victim of an alleged sexual assault who found the experience of going to trial so difficult she would warn others against it.

Canadians can then take part in an open online discussion, where the opinions are wide-ranging and a government moderator can step in to ask a contributor to point to any research they are aware of to back up their assertions, such as the claim that many make false accusations.

Steve Mihorean, the senior civil servant overseeing the review, said the department wanted to allow people to share their perspectives on these issues while also arming them with knowledge that might not be as widely known by average Canadians.

“I’m just of the view to say, be open about those questions to the public, tell them what the challenges are, give them a bit of information, let them go away on their own and think about it,” said Mihorean, director general of the criminal justice system review secretariat at the Justice Department.

Ottawa-based criminal defence lawyer Michael Spratt said he is concerned the additional consultations with the public, instead of relying on evidence-based research that has been around for years, could lead to more delays.

“The closer that we get to an election, the more worried I am that we actually won’t see anything,” he said.

The online consultation, which Mihorean said has so far seen about 4,800 people take part in the survey element, ends Jan. 15.

Just Posted

Longer wait times at Red Deer hospital’s ER due to staff shortage on weekend

“Right now we’re short staffed but it’s subsiding. It was critical Saturday evening”

Lacombe Legion Ladies Auxiliary celebrates 70 years

Community group supports local veterans and other community initiatives

Sylvan Lake Legion honours the memory of past president

A new podium at the Legion was dedicated to Steve Dills at a recent meeting

WATCH: Trekking through the foam in Red Deer

The fourth 5K Foam Fest was held at Heritage Ranch in Red Deer Saturday

WATCH: Red Deer residents protest for more equal family court treatment

Despite unfavourable weather, Matias Battauz was “stoked” to have three other people… Continue reading

WATCH: Farm Safety Day encourages Lacombe area students to stay safe

Lacombe County annual event helps keep accidents off the farm

Toronto police investigating drive-by shooting; fourth homicide in 24 hours

TORONTO — An unarmed woman was killed in a drive-by shooting in… Continue reading

Toronto Pride Parade to kick off amid tensions between LGBTQ community, police

TORONTO — Crowds of people have filled the streets of Toronto on… Continue reading

WATCH: Farm Safety Day encourages Lacombe area students to stay safe

Lacombe County annual event helps keep accidents off the farm

Lacombe Legion Ladies Auxiliary celebrates 70 years

Community group supports local veterans and other community initiatives

COC session vote approves Calgary as potential host for 2026 Olympics

Scott Hutcheson, chair of Calgary’s Olympic bid corporation — called vote a positive step forward

Man shot dead in Surrey, B.C., ID’d as hockey coach and father of two

Murder of Paul Bennett – a respected Peace Arch Hospital worker and ‘champion of sport’ – ‘not random’

Honda goal gives Japan a 2-2 draw with Senegal at World Cup

YEKATERINBURG, Russia — Senegal twice took the lead. Japan tied it up… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month