Videoconference of Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers Responsible for Justice and Public Safety

News Release – Videoconference of Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers Responsible for Justice and Public Safety

News Release

For Immediate Release

Justice and Public Safety Ministers work together on shared priorities

December 17, 2020 Ottawa, Ontario  Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat

Today, federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) ministers concluded two days of discussions on justice and public safety priorities that are important to Canadians. Due to restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, ministers held virtual meetings to continue to collaborate on shared priorities.

Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Canada’s justice system

Ministers resumed ongoing discussion on justice system recovery and the restoration of court operations. They committed to continue to collaborate by sharing practices put in place within their respective jurisdictions federally, provincially and territorially to support Canada’s courts as they adapt and restore operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ministers were updated on the work being undertaken in this regard through the Action Committee on Court Operations in Response to COVID-19. They agreed to work together on the challenges and concerns regarding the delivery of court services to northern, remote and Indigenous communities. Ministers also discussed principles that should be reflected in actions taken by different orders of government in response to the challenges and concerns identified. They shared experiences and ideas for modernizing the justice system, including using technology, and other measures to address challenges that have been created or exacerbated by COVID-19.

Ministers recognized the continuing challenges and financial pressures that each jurisdiction faces in delivering legal aid services, especially in light of COVID-19. They also discussed the need for increased funding for legal aid and agreed to continue to monitor the impact of the pandemic on the delivery of legal aid services. They also committed to collaborate to better legal aid services.

Ministers shared actions taken and lessons learned to prevent, reduce and address the spread of COVID-19 in correctional facilities. They discussed what information has been valuable in making operational and policy decisions. They also agreed to continue to share next steps in their COVID-19 response and restoring correctional service operations focusing on how population density is adequately managed.

Countering Bias and Racism in the Justice System

Ministers acknowledged the realities of bias and racism in the justice system and the importance of further work to address these very serious issues. Ministers agreed to share ideas for initiatives and reforms to address these issues, including systemic racism in the justice and public safety sector. Some ministers also underscored the importance of disaggregated data collection efforts to better inform the development of responses to systemic racism in the justice system.*

Prioritizing public safety and police work

Ministers were updated on federal firearms-related initiatives, including funding to support youth-at-risk and combat gun and gang violence, and engagement with partners on handguns. They were also provided with an update on the rural crime initiative, and provided their support for the continued development of a pan-Canadian strategic framework on rural crime.

Ministers also discussed Indigenous policing issues, including funding and the intention of the federal government to introduce legislation that would recognize Indigenous policing as an essential service. Ministers agreed to continue to work on these issues. They also emphasized that ongoing supports are necessary to launch and sustain community-led public safety initiatives that build capacity and allow for culturally and community relevant solutions.

Ministers shared views regarding body-worn cameras for police officers, which can help respond to calls for increased transparency and accountability, as well as concerns over bias and racism. The federal government gave an update on its plans for implementing the use of such cameras across the RCMP, which provides policing services in many parts of the country. Other ministers provided updates on body-worn cameras in their jurisdictions. Discussions also included matters related to implementation and ongoing cost.

Other priority items

Federal Ministers updated their provincial and territorial colleagues on the recent federal Fall Economic Statement, which outlines important investments to support key justice and public safety priorities.

Ministers agreed on the importance of ongoing collaboration to improve outcomes in the justice system for families and children, including cross-border maintenance order enforcement. Ministers exchanged updates on best practices for developing new and creative ways to deliver family justice services, including through Unified Family Courts (UFCs). Ministers acknowledged the current expansion of UFCs and agreed to maintain, where appropriate, open communication regarding possible future expansion. The importance of appointing additional judges to these courts as well as to the superior courts of provinces and territories that have not adopted the UFC model was also underscored.

Collaborating with Indigenous organizations on justice and public safety issues

Prior to their meeting, FPT Ministers engaged with representatives from the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the Métis National Council, as well as the Native Women’s Association of Canada. Discussions focused on three key issues: policing in Indigenous communities, countering bias and racism in the justice system, and progress towards a National Action Plan on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, Two-Spirit and LGBTQQIA people. The issue of legislative initiatives to implement the United Nations Declaration for the Recognition on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was also raised.


“Collaboration is essential to getting through challenging times. The conversations we have had with federal, provincial and territorial partners over the past three days are critical to the advancement of issues that affect Canadians from coast to coast to coast. They enhance the ability of governments to work in a coordinated way and strengthen our response to ongoing challenges. I am pleased with the progress we have made.”

The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., M.P., Q.C.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

“This year has been difficult for all Canadians, making me all the more grateful to have had the opportunity to meet virtually with my provincial and territorial colleagues to advance important work relating to justice and public safety. I am encouraged by the collaboration and goodwill shared by all Ministers.”

The Honourable Bill Blair, P.C., M.P

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

*Quebec shares the objectives regarding issues related to combatting bias and racism, and intends to implement its own actions and measures, including those made public by the government of Quebec’s Groupe d’action contre le racisme.

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