Federal-Provincial-Territorial Meeting of Ministers responsible for Justice


La Malbaie, Quebec – October 1, 2003 – At the conclusion of their Federal-Provincial-Territorial (FPT) meeting, Ministers Responsible for Justice today addressed key issues facing Canada’s criminal justice system, including child sexual exploitation, mega-trials and illicit drugs.

The meeting in La Malbaie was co-chaired by Minister of Justice Martin Cauchon and Solicitor General Wayne Easter, along with their Quebec hosts Justice Minister Marc Bellemare and Public Security Minister Jacques Chagnon.

This year, Ministers from Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador and the Northwest Territories were unable to attend the meeting because of provincial elections or other matters.


Ministers discussed the Cannabis Reform Bill, part of Canada’s National Drug Strategy. The initiative would introduce a ticketing scheme for the possession of small amounts of cannabis, while increasing penalties for marijuana cultivation.

There was general agreement on the importance of adopting legislative measures to enable the police to administer new screening tests on drug-impaired drivers. In the near future, Justice Canada will issue a consultation paper developed by a federal-provincial-territorial working group.

Attending Ministers endorsed the National Coordinating Committee on Organized Crime Working Group’s recommendations on the proliferation of marijuana grow operations across Canada. These include increased coordination among law enforcement agencies, higher penalties for marijuana production, the development of a coordinated strategy for research and increased public awareness. They urged immediate concerted action involving all levels of government and key stakeholders. They instructed their officials to begin implementing the recommendations and directed them to further consider sentencing issues.

Ministers acknowledged that the current law has not been effective in discouraging the use of cannabis and its application has not been consistent across the country. The increased potency of marijuana and the link between its cultivation, sale, and possession, and organized crime are factors to be considered in developing a solution acceptable to all governments.

There was also a discussion of the growing problem of methamphetamine labs and the need for a concerted response.


The federal Solicitor General reported on the growing problem of Internet-based child sexual exploitation and consulted FPT Ministers on the parameters of a national strategy to address this problem. As part of the strategy, he announced the creation of a national coordination centre within the RCMP to address the sexual exploitation of children. This centre, now in its initial phase, will support law enforcement agencies across the country in dealing with this serious crime.

Also as part of the strategy, the Manitoba Minister provided an update on the Winnipeg-based Cybertip.ca initiative, an on-line reporting mechanism for Internet-based child pornography and other forms of child sexual exploitation. Both federal ministers expressed strong support for the initiative and their desire to seek long-term funding to allow it to be rolled out nationally as quickly as possible.

Manitoba introduced a proposal to include three additional sexual offences against children to the Dangerous Offender provisions of the Criminal Code (sexual exploitation, sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching). Ministers agreed to refer the proposal to FPT officials who will also analyse the impact of recent Supreme Court of Canada decisions on dangerous offenders and report back to Ministers.

Ministers recognized Bill C-20 on the protection of children and other vulnerable persons as a step forward in addressing concerns about the sexual exploitation of children. Ministers agreed that more needs to be done to protect young people from sexually exploitive relationships.


Ministers discussed the challenges associated with finding efficiencies in the criminal justice system. They endorsed the creation of a Steering Committee on Justice Efficiencies and Access to the Justice System.

Their discussions began with a comprehensive outline by the Quebec Justice Minister of the costs, complexity, delays and length of criminal proceedings known as “mega-trials.” Ministers agreed that rapid action is required, in collaboration with the Bench and the Bar, to examine possible Criminal Code amendments such as a substitute judge, a smaller number of jurors and powers of a presiding judge. This will be a priority for the newly formed Steering Committee.

Ministers discussed whether to maintain the preliminary inquiry process, largely because of its expense and questions regarding its usefulness. However, there was agreement that officials should do further work on the reclassification of offences. This could involve creating more dual procedure or “hybrid” offences that would reduce the need for preliminary inquiries.

Officials were also asked to review the Criminal Code bail provisions to ensure that they adequately protect the public.


Building on the success of the national DNA data bank, Ministers discussed the possible development of a national DNA Missing Persons Index proposed by the federal Solicitor General. This index would help bring certainty and closure to families of missing persons. The possibility that it could assist as an investigative tool would also be explored. Officials were directed to consider the political, privacy, legislative and financial implications.

The Federal Minister of Justice advised his colleagues that he hopes that amendments to update and refine the data bank legislation will be tabled shortly.


The Ministers of Justice agreed to the implementation of a three year Legal Aid Renewal Strategy covering fiscal years 2003-2004, 2004-2005 and 2005-2006. The Strategy provides provinces and territories with a $10 million per year increase to the annual base funding of $82 million for criminal legal aid as well as a contribution of $20 million per year in a new Investment Fund that will foster innovative solutions to addressing unmet need in criminal legal aid. Certain jurisdictions said they will face unique pressures in the area of immigration and refugee legal aid.

Provincial and Territorial Ministers also asked for the Federal Minister’s support to ensure jurisdictions are able to fully access these funds over the three years of the agreement.

The Legal Aid Renewal Strategy is guided by the overall objective of responding to unmet needs in criminal legal aid identified in the prior two-year extensive joint research initiative.


It was reported that the Youth Criminal Justice Act appears to have been implemented smoothly. The Federal Justice Minister reiterated his intention to propose amendments to the Act as a result of the ruling of the Quebec Court of Appeal which struck down two elements concerning adult sentences and publication. Some Ministers expressed concern about the decision not to appeal the Quebec Court of Appeal ruling. The Federal Justice Minister invited provinces and territories to bring their views forward on proposed amendments to the Act.


Ministers discussed an issues paper prepared by Alberta and endorsed by several other provinces respecting the use of conditional sentences.

The Federal Minister of Justice welcomed the paper as a constructive addition to the debate and undertook to ask the Chair of the Standing Committee of the House of Commons on Justice and Human Rights to complete their study of conditional sentences early as possible.


The Manitoba Justice Minister proposed strengthening penalties in the Criminal Code for assaulting, disarming and obstructing law enforcement officers. Ministers referred the proposals to the FPT Working Group on Sentencing for discussion and further consideration.


Ministers discussed the constitutionality, scope and costs of the proposed National Sex Offender Registry. Provincial and Territorial Ministers asked that the registry be broadened in scope. Ministers also reiterated their interest in ensuring photographs of offenders be included in the registry.

The Federal Solicitor General indicated that he would use his best efforts to amend the proposed legislation to expand coverage to offenders presently in the system. He also reiterated that the registry will include photos.

The Justice Ministers directed that the constitutional aspects of including more offenders in the registry be discussed among federal and provincial legal counsel.


The federal Solicitor General tabled the Annual Report to Ministers on the National Agenda to Combat Organized Crime. The National Agenda endorses coordinated action on four fronts: national and regional coordination; legislative and regulatory tools; research and analysis; and public education. He also announced that the first detailed public report on progress under the National Agenda would be published later this year.

Several Ministers spoke to the growth of organized crime, its pervasiveness and reach into legitimate business activity, and the need to educate the public about it.

Federal and Provincial Ministers stressed their determination to address this serious problem.


Ministers endorsed the Canadian Statement of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime, 2003 that modernizes that statement of principle issued at their 1988 FPT Meeting. The 2003 declaration is attached to this communiqué.


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Ref :

Catherine Gagnaire, Press Secretary
Ken Moreau
Office of the Minister of Justice of CanadaOffice of the Solicitor General of Canada
(613) 992-4621(613) 991-2924

Internet : www.canada.justice.gc.ca



           In honour of the United Nations’ Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime, and with concern for the harmful impact of criminal victimization on individuals and on society, and in recognition that all persons have the full protection of rights guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other provincial Charters governing rights and freedoms; that the rights of victims and offenders need to be balanced; and of the shared jurisdiction of federal, provincial, and territorial governments, the federal, provincial, and territorial Ministers Responsible for Criminal Justice agree that the following principles should guide the treatment of victims, particularly during the criminal justice process.


The following principles are intended to promote fair treatment of victims and should be reflected in federal/provincial/territorial laws, policies and procedures:

           1. Victims of crime should be treated with courtesy, compassion, and respect.            

2. The privacy of victims should be considered and respected to the greatest extent possible.


3. All reasonable measures should be taken to minimize inconvenience to victims.


4. The safety and security of victims should be considered at all stages of the criminal justice process and appropriate measures should be taken when necessary to protect victims from intimidation and retaliation.


5. Information should be provided to victims about the criminal justice system and the victim’s role and opportunities to participate in criminal justice processes.


6. Victims should be given information, in accordance with prevailing law, policies, and procedures, about the status of the investigation; the scheduling, progress and final outcome of the proceedings; and the status of the offender in the correctional system.


7. Information should be provided to victims about available victim assistance services, other programs and assistance available to them, and means of obtaining financial reparation.


8. The views, concerns and representations of victims are an important consideration in criminal justice processes and should be considered in accordance with prevailing law, policies and procedures.


9. The needs, concerns and diversity of victims should be considered in the development and delivery of programs and services, and in related education and training.


10. Information should be provided to victims about available options to raise their concerns when they believe that these principles have not been followed.