BY JODY WILSON-RAYBOULD
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
When I was appointed Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, I was given a mandate by the Prime Minister that was, and continues to be, ambitious. At that time, I welcomed the opportunity to meet the important goals outlined in my mandate letter. Today, I remain as committed as ever to achieving them. As we approach the end of 2016, I am proud to say that we rose to the challenge, fulfilling many of our commitments and making strong progress on the remaining priorities.
The Prime Minister asked me to bring forward a number of important pieces of legislation and to ensure that our work demonstrates the greatest possible commitment to respecting the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This year, Parliament passed historic legislation to allow eligible patients who are suffering intolerably, and for whom death has become reasonably foreseeable, to obtain medical assistance in dying. As ambassador of the Charter, I also introduced legislation to promote equality and fair treatment under the law for all Canadians, including a bill to protect individuals from discrimination and hate based on their gender identity or expression and a bill to remove discriminatory Criminal Code provisions surrounding consensual sexual activity.
I worked with the Prime Minister to develop a new open and transparent process for filling vacancies at the Supreme Court of Canada with functionally bilingual candidates, which resulted in the appointment of the first Supreme Court Justice from Newfoundland and Labrador, Justice Malcolm Rowe. We also reformed the judicial appointments process for superior courts to ensure merit based appointments, which will lead to appointments that better reflect the diversity of Canada.
I am incredibly proud of what we have done and have committed to doing to renew and transform our relationship with Indigenous peoples. Reconciliation is critical to ensuring we live in a Canada where everyone’s potential is realized. I was honoured to be part of Canada’s unqualified endorsement of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in May. Now, the Government is undertaking a review of federal laws and policies that impact the rights of Indigenous peoples. I look forward to working with my Cabinet colleagues and in partnership and consultation with First Nations, Inuit, and the Métis Nation to translate the promise of section 35 and the rights set out in the UN Declaration into real benefits for communities.
I was also proud to help launch the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. I remain confident that the work of this independent inquiry will help us honour those we have lost, learn from the past, and take the necessary actions to end this national tragedy.
With support from my colleagues on the Cabinet Committee on Litigation Management, we began a comprehensive review of our litigation strategy to ensure the Government’s position in court is consistent with the Charter, our commitments, and our values. Concrete examples of this litigation review include adopting a recognition of rights approach to litigation with Indigenous peoples; abandoning appeals in a number of Charter cases; and seeking to work collaboratively with litigants to explore policy and legislative changes.
I have also embarked on the long-term, collaborative work of reforming our criminal justice system so that it better serves Canadians. We have held roundtable conversations across the country, where we heard diverse local, provincial, and territorial perspectives on current realities and on ways to improve the justice system. The transformation of the criminal justice system will be a key priority throughout my mandate.
Next year promises to be an equally exciting and challenging year as we mark Canada’s 150th anniversary, as well as the 35th anniversary of the adoption of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, which together enshrine the rights and freedoms of all Canadians, including Indigenous peoples. As we prepare for these important milestones, it is time for all Canadians to envision the country Canada should be.
I look forward to celebrating and continuing our work to promote respect for the rights and freedoms of all Canadians.