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Former judge to lead consultations on conviction review commission

Thursday, April 01, 2021 @ 1:46 PM | By Terry Davidson

Canada’s government has tapped a former Ontario judge to lead consultations on forming an independent commission to review cases of possible wrongful criminal conviction.

According to a March 31 news release from Justice Canada, former Ontario Appeal Court Justice Harry LaForme has been appointed to lead “public-facing consultations” on the creation of the Criminal Case Review Commission (CCRC).

Joining Justice LaForme will be one-time Court of Quebec judge Juanita Westmoreland-Traoré.

The CCRC, states the release, will “ensure that potentially wrongfully convicted people can have their applications reviewed expeditiously and by an independent body.”

“Mr. LaForme and Ms. Westmoreland-Traoré will conduct consultations with a wide range of stakeholders on the potential structure and mandate of the new commission,” it states. “Those being consulted will include provincial and territorial partners, criminal law professionals, victims of crime, Indigenous peoples, Black Canadians and other racialized communities, and organizations that advocate for the wrongfully convicted.”

Subjects up for consultation will include the “appropriate structure and mandate” of the commission.  

 Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti

Justice Minister David Lametti

A Justice Canada spokesperson confirmed the CCRC would operate “at arms’ length from government.”   

A report on the consultations will be given to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti, and details will be made public at a later date.

"Wrongful convictions are a matter of deep concern to me, and to many Canadians,” said Lametti in a statement. “I am pleased to appoint two distinguished former justices … to hold public-facing consultations on the creation of an independent Criminal Case Review Commission. These consultations will capture a wide array of perspectives and will help inform a comprehensive, made-in-Canada approach to this issue.”

The current review process is set out in s. 696.1 to 696.6 of Canada’s Criminal Code, which allows for applications to be made to the Justice Minister to review whether there are grounds for miscarriage of justice in a criminal conviction and where the person’s “rights of judicial review or appeal with respect to the conviction or finding have been exhausted.”

According to the spokesperson, that review process is currently handled by Justice Canada’s Criminal Conviction Review Group (CCRG), which advises the minister on an appropriate remedy — if any is warranted.

Ottawa has looked to programs in countries such as England, Scotland and New Zealand as models.  

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