Election questions…

Oct 10, 2019

 Canada can be on the cusp of a new way of understanding what justice requires

What needs to change and why?

Here are examples of why changes are needed in the criminal justice system:

  1. The criminal justice system is being used inappropriately for issues that could be dealt with more effectively by other sectors: – social services / health / mental health / poverty / education / labour / housing /child protection /substance abuse.
  2. There are built-in constraints in the current criminal justice system (i.e. legal / policy / financial) that prevent players in the system from making decisions that collaborate better with other sectors.
  3. The criminal justice system too often operates in a box and does not work with other sectors to better address how life really is.
  4. Our society over-uses criminalization and our criminal justice system over-uses punitive sanctions, particularly incarceration, resulting in court backlogs, overcrowding in remand and prison.
  5. Even where the criminal justice system is used appropriately, it is ill equipped to address the broad range of harms experienced by individuals, families and communities, and their relationships. It doesn’t help people recover,


Based on data collected from the past 40 years, the Smart Justice Network of Canada has an evidence-based vision for a justice system which would make communities healthier and safer.

We believe that the criminal justice system must be more than an end in itself, and it is capable of more than “punishing” offenders.

The criminal justice process in Canada must hold offenders accountable in ways that contribute to the safety and health of the community, of victims and of offenders.



September 23, 2019 – Three questions

(The Smart Justice Network of Canada (SJNC) is a non-partisan, non-profit network of volunteers from different walks of life and communities across Canada, working together to promote a different approach to criminal and social justice. One that is smart, responsible, fair, evidence-based, holistic and fiscally prudent.)

Suggested Question for Leaders’ Debate:

One of the issues seldom talked about in election campaigns is criminal justice for which the federal government has principal jurisdiction. Critics of our current justice system argue that:

  • Canada’s approach to crime features an insufficient emphasis on mental health, poverty, substance abuse and other factors underlying breakdowns in families and communities.
  • Our justice approach focuses primarily on incarceration to the exclusion

of key factors that cause crime and social injustice, undermining offender

health and reintegration.

  • Our failure to invest in community-based alternatives and to respond to

crime with broader collaborative partnerships wastes money and

inadequately serves the needs of victims, families and communities

affected by crime.

Given that other countries (including the USA, UK, Germany, Sweden, Norway, New Zealand) have made significant changes in their approach to criminal justice with positive results, and that there are promising initiatives in our own country, what changes to Canada’s approach to crime does your party support?



Lorraine Berzins                  Jennifer Llewellyn             George Thomson

613.797.7092 (mobile)        902.225.3335 (mobile)        613.878.2878 (mobile)

lorraine.berzins@yahoo.ca jennifer.llewellyn@dal.ca    gthomson49@outlook.com

SJNC – Smart Justice Network of Canada – Contacts for further information:

Lorraine Berzins worked in Canada’s federal prison system for 14 years. In 1984, she moved to the voluntary sector as a justice policy analyst and educator with the Church Council on Justice and Corrections (CCJC), collaborating for 27 years on national projects in partnership with community organizations and federal, provincial and territorial governments. She has served on the Advisory Council of the Law Commission of Canada.

Jennifer Llewellyn is the Yogis and Keddy Chair in Human Rights Law at the Schulich School of Law School, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, whose teaching and research are focused in the areas of restorative justice, truth commissions, international and domestic human rights law and Canadian constitutional law. Professor Llewellyn is currently the Director of Restorative Approach International Learning Community and previous Director of the Nova Scotia Restorative Justice Community University Research Alliance. She is currently serving as a Commissioner for the Restorative Public Inquiry for the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children.  She was the 2018 recipient of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada Impact Award.

George Thomson’s career in law and public service began at the University of Western Ontario, where he became Assistant Dean of the Law School. He has since then been a judge, Deputy Attorney-General in the Government of Ontario, and the Deputy Minister of Justice in the Government of Canada. He was also formerly Executive Director of the National Judicial Institute where he played a leadership role in a number of international justice reforms.


The time has come for a course correction in Canada’s approach to justice.


Recognize that effective solutions require comprehensive attention to the multi-faceted and unmet social, health and economic needs of children, families and communities.

Fully appreciate that the justice system alone cannot respond effectively to the diversity of challenges people and communities experience.

Increase collaborative partnerships based on mutual respect for the unique

contributions all partners make; partnerships across many different sectors – health, education, justice, child welfare, social services, economic development, as well as cultural, recreation and community-based initiatives.

Respect and support culturally sensitive engagement and collaborative community responses to justice issues. Learn from and honour indigenous teachings and traditional ways. Support the reconciliation work required across Canada.

Collectively explore connections between criminal and social justice issues stemming from health, employment, housing, poverty, education, addictions and mental health.

Rely on evidence-based, innovative approaches within and outside of government that effectively change the intolerable, seemingly entrenched current outcomes that undermine prevention, rehabilitation and squander public funds.

Build skills and processes for participatory democracy for everyone to constructively share the work of building the social capital necessary to create connected, healthy communities and take up their civic responsibilities to participate in making the hard moral decisions that set priorities and policies for their communities.

Move expenditures from excessive investments in courts and prisons to investments in supporting victims, rehabilitating offenders and building multi-dimensional, community-based approaches.



Colour of Change Network (Toronto) – Michael Kerr


The web site offers a picture of the impact of the federal election on both the Indigenous population and the peoples of colour population, estimated together at 25% of Canada but largely without focus in the pre-election appeals by the political parties.  The site also offers a fact sheet and a report card on these federal political parties.  https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/ColourofChangeNetwork/oOdSmUWkudE


PBO / Associated Press – Garance Burke and Martha Mendoza

Trump Admin Shifting to Privatize Migrant Child Detention 

The plight of children in immigration detention in the US likely just became worse as the Trump administration has decided to stream off children in custody to a network of private operators.  What appears even more concerning is that the decision flies in the face of the many “largely religious-based non-profit grantees that have long cared for the kids.” The main private and for profit operator, Caliburn International Corp, has a facility with two thousand employees still being paid even though the population of the detained children has seriously shrunk.  Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly joined Caliburn’s board this spring.  https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/trump-admin-shifting-to-privatize-migrant-child-detention/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=share_button


CNN (US)  – Blake Ellis and Melanie Hicken

“I am in desperate need of medical attention.”

The link surveys deaths while in custody and examines the link between the deaths and the failure of the prisons involved to offer appropriate medical intervention, an area of growing commentary in the prison reform efforts.  Often the medical services are contracted out to a company called Correct Care Solutions – recently renamed likely because of lawsuits – Wellpath – where the operative principle seems to be cost containment.  The company provides contracted medical services to over 500 facilities in 34 states.  https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2019/06/us/jail-health-care-ccs-invs/index.html