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Loosening the purse strings

Canada’s first budget in two years went big. It also proposes one of the most significant investments in the justice sector in recent memory. But for a system where the problems run deep, will it enough?

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s lengthy spending document achieves that feat by making good on several promises made over the years.

Budget 2021 commits, through to 2026:

  • $216 million in new spending on youth justice services funding
  • $40 million for drug treatment courts
  • $22 million for a “Racialized Communities Legal Support Initiative”
  • $75 million to improve access to justice for Indigenous peoples and expand prosecution capacity in the North
  • $7 million to improve data collection in the justice system, including data on race and Indigenous status
  • $27 million for legal aid supports to asylum seekers.
  • $88 million to expand and modernize the pardon process 
  • $49 million to create 13 new superior court positions, and one new spot on the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador
  • $18 million to re-constitute the Law Commission of Canada
  • $19 million to address judicial misconduct, and to beef up investigations into judges accused of wrongdoing
  • $5 million in immediate funding for federal courts still grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic
  • $85 million for free legal advice and legal representation for victims of sexual assault and intimate partner violence.

Michael Spratt, a criminal lawyer and partner at Abergel Goldstein, approves in particular of the pardon measures.

“It would be better to make them free and automatic,” he says, but adds they signal a step forward. Dropping the euphemistic use of the term “record suspension” to describe a pardon is also an improvement, he noted.

Read Justin Ling’s full article: CBA National Magazine

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