What’s in Budget 2023 for justice?
The federal budget promises funding for reviewing wrongful convictions and legal aid for asylum seekers.
The 2023 federal budget is light on measures for the justice system, with no new judicial positions announced and very little by way of new resources directed at access-to-justice measures. The hallmark justice announcement in the budget is funding for the proposed independent Miscarriage of Justice Review Commission.
"The federal government fundamentally believes that a fair and equitable criminal justice system must guard against potential miscarriages of justice," the budget reads. "Under the current system, it can be too difficult, and take too long, for people who believe they have been wrongfully convicted to have their cases reviewed."
The bill to create the Commission, Bill C-40, was tabled on February 16th, but has yet to be debated. The budget would provide $83.9 million over five years, starting in 2023-24, and $18.7 million ongoing to Justice Canada for the Commission.
The other major spending item supported by the CBA is geared toward legal aid for asylum seekers, with $43.5 million in 2023-24 to Justice Canada to maintain federal support for immigration and refugee legal aid services, a measure which the CBA applauds..
There is a focus in the budget on combatting financial crime, money laundering and terrorist financing.
"In June 2022, the Government of British Columbia released the final report of the Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia, also known as the Cullen Commission," the budget reads. "This report highlighted major gaps in the current [Anti-Money Laundering]/[Anti-Terrorist Financing] Regime, as well as areas for deepened federal-provincial collaboration. Between measures previously introduced and those proposed in Budget 2023, as well as through consultations that the government has committed to launching, the federal government will have responded to all of the recommendations within its jurisdiction in the Cullen Commission report."
To that end, the budget proposes the creation of the Canadian Financial Crimes Agency, with $2 million provided to Public Safety Canada to undertake the work.
"The CFCA will become Canada's lead enforcement agency against financial crime," the budget reads. "It will bring together expertise necessary to increase money laundering charges, prosecutions and convictions, and asset forfeiture results in Canada. These actions will address the key operational challenges identified in both domestic and international reviews of Canada's AML/ATF Regime."
As part of this focus on financial crime is the government's plan to introduce a publicly accessible federal beneficial ownership registry introduced in the House of Commons as Bill C-42 last week. This will provide transparency to crack down on anonymous shell companies used to conceal property, business or other assets.
There is $111.4 million to bolster bilingualism in our justice system, including through the translation of judgments of national interest.
The budget also lists some 49 legislative changes that the measures in the budget will require. Some appear to be additional legislative changes not included in the budget document, such as amendments to the Royal Styles and Titles Act.
Other legislative changes listed include updating the Criminal Code on predatory lending practices, including a change to lowering the criminal rate of interest from 47% to 35%, and adjustments to the payday lending exception. amendments to the Canada Labour Code to provide protections to gig workers in federally-regulated sectors, amending the Food and Drugs Act to ban cosmetic testing on animals, and amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to allow Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to require electronic submissions of asylum claims.
The budget also proposes to amend the Bank Act, Insurance Companies Act, and Trust and Loan Companies Act, which adapt and apply Canada Business Corporations Act diversity disclosure requirements for board directors and senior management at federally regulated financial institutions. There are also amendments to permit virtual-only meetings and allow for the introduction of conditions ensuring participation.