Cross Country Checkup

Is it time to reinvent Canada's criminal justice system?

A new Senate report suggests Canada's justice system has become a system of injustice. It's so slow and backlogged that some awaiting trial for murder have been allowed to walk free. Is it time to re-invent the criminal justice system?
Has Canada's justice system become a system of injustice? (Shutterstock)

We all hope to live in safe communities in this country, and we expect our criminal justice system will help keep us safe by convicting the guilty, protecting the innocent and delivering justice for all.

But, Canada's justice system got a swift kick in the pants this week from both the Supreme Court of Canada and the Senate. 

The verdict from those venerable institutions is that the justice system is very slow, so backlogged and has become a system of injustice. 
Host of Cross Country Checkup, Duncan McCue.

The issue, simply put, is that it takes way too long for criminal cases to get to trial. The Supreme Court recognized the problem last year in a case called R v Jordan, in which an accused drug dealer waited over four years to face trial. The court concluded that delay was unreasonable, and set strict new time limits for trials.

Since then, we've seen judges simply throw cases out — some involving charges of murder and sexual assault — on grounds they'd simply taken too long. Across the country, there are more than a thousand applications to have cases stayed.

On Friday, in yet another case about court delays, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the right to a timely trial, saying the "culture of complacency" must end.

Against that backdrop, a new Senate report recommended fifty ways to fix Canada's courts, including appointing more judges, overhauling the Criminal Code, and improving health services for those who suffer with mental health and addictions.

What do you think? Are governments working fast enough to fix Canada's courts? Can justice be done in timely fashion and still be thorough and fair?

Our question today: Is it time to re-invent Canada's criminal justice system?


Nicole Nayel

Mother of Fouad Nayel, whose five-year-old murder case never went to trial and is now before the Ontario Court of Appeal 

Sean Fine 

Justice reporter at The Globe and Mail 

Twitter: @SeanFineGlobe

Shane Partridge 

A man who has experience the criminal justice system and prison firsthand in Canada. He now supports prisiners with mental health problems and addiction issues in Saskatoon

Twitter: @SPartridgeYXE 

Senator George Baker

Deputy chair of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee who released this week's report on court delays. He is the longest serving parliamentarian in Canada. 

Megan Savard 

Defence lawyer and Partner at the Addario Law Group LLP. She is also Counsel for the Criminal Lawyers Association in R. v. Cody, the most recent Supreme Court of Canada case examining the right to a speedy trial.

Twitter: @megan_savard

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