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HomeWorld NewsFederal Government Plans Consultation on 'Black Justice Strategy' to Tackle 'Systemic Discrimination'

Federal Government Plans Consultation on ‘Black Justice Strategy’ to Tackle ‘Systemic Discrimination’

The Liberal government announced on Sept. 5 the launch of consultations to develop its “Black Justice Strategy,” in an effort to combat what it calls “systemic discrimination” in the justice system.

“Our government is committed to combating systemic discrimination and anti-black racism in our institutions, which continue to be painful realities for black people and communities across the country,” Minister of Justice and Attorney General Arif Virani said in a statement.

The government hopes to cleave the purported overrepresentation of black Canadians in the criminal justice system and will work with black-led community organizations in 12 provinces and territories.

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The Justice Department says the organizations will lead community engagement on its strategy’s framework to identify missing or outdated information. Those who are not able to participate with the organizations are invited to complete an online survey before the end of September.

“By consulting with Black communities across the country, we are ensuring that the Strategy is shaped by their lived experiences with the anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination that persist within our criminal justice system,” said Diversity Minister Kamal Khera in the statement.

Federal data provided by the department indicate black adults made up about 4 percent of Canada’s population in 2020-2021 but comprise 9 percent of federal prison inmates and 8 percent of the provincial and territorial offender populations.

The intent to implement a justice strategy for black people follows other initiatives, such as the government’s Bill C-5, meant to reduce the overrepresentation of certain groups in prisons. The bill, passed in November 2022, amended the Criminal Code to repeal mandatory minimum sentencing for offences such as armed robbery and possession of controlled substances.

“Former Bill C-5 repealed certain mandatory minimum penalties that have most contributed to the over-incarceration of black, Indigenous, racialized, and marginalized people, increased the availability of conditional sentence orders (commonly referred to as house arrest) where appropriate, and encouraged the greater use of diversion programs for simple possession of drugs,” says Justice Canada.

According to Department of Justice figures, from 2010 to 2020, black offenders (53 percent) were likelier than their white counterparts (46 percent) to be in custody for an offence punishable by a mandatory minimum penalty. The proportion of black inmates punished by a mandatory minimum penalty also increased from 51 percent to 59 percent during that period.

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