Justice programs in the 2014 federal budget

Funding announced for new judges, DNA database, Victims’ Bill of Rights, and aboriginal justice
Funding announced for new judges, DNA database, Victims’ Bill of Rights, and aboriginal justice

Six new judges

New funding will allow Alberta and Quebec to appoint six new judges to fight “increases in the number of complicated, high-profile criminal and civil cases [that] have caused significant delays in conducting hearings,” according to the budget.

Four of the judges will go to Quebec, and the remaining two to Alberta. Ottawa hopes the extra judges will “ensure that cases are heard in a timely manner and that serious charges are not being dropped because of hearing delays.”

Missing persons DNA index

The budget sets aside $8.1 million over five years (with $1.3 million a year ongoing) to fund a new database to store the DNA of missing persons. Most cold cases remain unsolved because, even if remains are found, they are unlikely to be identified.

The new database will supplement the work of the RCMP’s National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty stated in his budget speech that these measures are being put in place “to help bring some peace to the families of missing persons”

Victims’ Bill of Rights

One of the budget’s more controversial inclusions is the section dedicated to the Canadian Victims’ Bill of Rights. The bill will offer services for victims such as a web portal that allows them to access information about their rights, the programs and services available to them and a photo of the offender before they are released.

Ex-ombudsman of the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Srime, Steve Sullivan, has stated that the changes are a PR stunt more concerned with scoring political points than helping victims.

Others think the bill can’t come soon enough. Current Ombudsman Sue O’Sullivan said in a press release, “it is encouraging to see that the Government has committed … to supporting the measures as required.”

Aboriginal justice items

The budget dedicates $22.2 million over two years to renew the Aboriginal Justice Strategy. The program, which is designed to decrease victimization, crime and incarceration among aboriginal people, will continue to work with aboriginal communities to support community justice programs. This will provide an alternative to the mainstream justice system for lesser offences.

The budget devotes a further $25 million over five years to address violence against aboriginal women and girls. The money will help decrease what is, according to the budget, a “disturbingly high number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls.”

The program, set to begin in 2015, will contribute to the National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains. According to the budget, the centre will improve the law enforcement and justice systems, and will ensure that the families of missing and murdered aboriginals have access to culturally appropriate services.

Photo: Earth Rangers