BOF Recommendations on Canada’s Black Justice Strategy

As we approach the summer months, reams of data show that we can anticipate an increase in interactions between law enforcement and Black and Racialized communities. We can also anticipate an increase in retail profiling of Black Canadians, and in random stops predicated on racial profiling. We are hopeful that within the backdrop of this phenomenon, we will shortly see the release of Canada’s groundbreaking Black Justice Strategy. This is a generational opportunity by Government to develop a consistent framework to guide policy and practices to help dismantle systemic anti-Black racism in Canada’s Justice System.

Extensive national community consultations took place led by grassroots Canadian community organizations to inform the work of the Steering Committee. Black Opportunity Fund is proud to be a funder of the work of several of these organization. The Steering Committee, led by Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, was tasked with developing the framework for the Black Justice Strategy.

Black Opportunity Fund’s National Justice Working Group consulted with and provided its recommendations to the Department of Justice and the Steering Committee. BOF’s National Justice Working Group, a coalition of grassroots organizations, scholars, Elders, cultural keepers, policy specialists, youth, and members of Black communities across Canada, working in various ways in myriad disciplines, to address systemic and structural inequities in the justice system.

We have seen previous consultations, on addressing the significant disparities in involvement with and outcomes for Black and Indigenous Canadians, which have fallen short, resulting in superficial recommendations focused primarily on symptoms, including recommendations for more policing, and police training. While there is certainly a need for more and better training of law enforcement, the strategy needs to be more about upstream solutions focused on  reparatory and restorative justice for Black Communities. So we are very hopeful to see meaningful actions and strategies in the recommendations, as a result of the extensive listening exercises, and the leadership of the Steering Committee.

BOFs recommendations for Restorative and Reparatory justice for Black people in Canada, were framed around the following key urgent issues: 

A. Black people, especially Black youth, have received harsher penalties for cannabis-related offences; 

B. Culturally safe and responsive rehabilitation support for incarcerated persons, including culturally responsive and robust therapeutic and mental health supports, are few or non-existent; 

C. There is a dearth of community-responsive alternatives to parole and incarceration;  

D. Initiatives to ensure that the administrators of the criminal justice system (ie. prosecutors, parole board members, judges, etc.) better reflect Black communities, are in short supply; 

E. There is no funding to develop and implement aggressive and culturally safe social reintegration programmes for Black Canadians who are released from incarceration;

F. There is a need for coordination with other relevant departments in order to ensure a multi-faceted, comprehensive policy approach toward the development of a Black Justice strategy. 

G. Include mandatory Impact of Race and Culture Assessment Reports as part of pre-sentencing hearings for Black people found guilty of committing crimes; 

H. A Reparatory Justice Plan, with the goal of providing recompense to Black people for harm caused due to well-documented systemic and structural injustices within the criminal justice system. Recompense can be in the form of financial contributions, and therapeutic healing from historical trauma, needs to be incorporated into policy decisions;   

I. There is a lack of data collection standards to guide the gathering of race-based data in federal institutions which would enable effective measurement of outcomes.

Read the recommendations from the Black Opportunity Fund National Justice Working Group, to the Federal Government’s Black Justice Strategy, Click here to read BOF recommendations on Black Justice Strategy