Transforming Canada’s Justice System: the 13th National Criminal Justice Symposium

The National Criminal Justice Symposium is an annual forum for justice leaders to share perspectives and solutions on how we can create a responsive, accessible, and accountable criminal justice system and address the challenges that prevent this goal from being realized.

JHS Pacific joined some 100 criminal justice practitioners, professionals, Indigenous-serving organizations, advocates, researchers, and other experts this past March at the 13th National Symposium to explore the topic of “Criminal Justice Reform and the Pandemic.”

As with all human systems, in order for the justice system to function effectively, the ability to have direct, sustained personal interactions is essential. Across Canada and beyond, the COVID-19 pandemic immensely impacted the ability to do this as people, organizations, and governments collectively worked to contain and limit the spread of the virus. As a result of the challenges caused by COVID-19, as well as the opportunities it presented in the implementation of new, adaptive technologies and approaches, the symposium focused in on this key topic.

Over the course of three days, participants explored pressing challenges related to COVID-19 and the opportunities presented related to the implementation of new, adaptive approaches. 

This forum continues to be an opportunities for Justice leaders from across Canada to meet and discuss broad challenges facing our systems and discuss ways the system can change, improve and hopefully have more positive outcomes for individuals and communities.v

Mark Miller, CEO of JHS Pacific

Our CEO, Mark Miller, took part in a multi-disciplinary panel discussion on how the pandemic acted as a stimulus to working holistically, with our Community Support Initiatives (CSI) serving as the primary case study into cross-sectoral coordination done right.

The panel highlighted a case-study in British Columbia from the early weeks of the pandemic, in which the rapid movement of many people who might otherwise have been remanded or in sentenced custody placed significant pressure on housing, social assistance and transition services in the community. Relationships were also under initial pressure, but rapid action to organize a broad coalition of services has since created a model of interagency cooperation on services to the vulnerable and marginalized going forward.

Re-Inventing Criminal Justice: The Thirteenth National Symposium Final Report

Throughout the symposium, themes appeared which highlighted some of the positive impacts that working holistically during the pandemic have had on the justice system and service delivery, as well as where potential opportunities exist to improve. Here are just some of the many themes that arose:

Learn more about the themes that arose throughout the panel discussion, as well as the full symposium here.

A virtual symposium

As a result of the critical dialogue revolving around the themes and areas of interest, symposium participants worked together to create practical, actionable recommendations for those responsible for the administration of the criminal justice system at the federal, provincial, and territorial levels of government and for the consideration of the public.

Being a voice for NGO’s but ultimately for people impacted by the Justice system is a unique opportunity and I really feel that we are able to raise key points that cause others to pause and reflect on topics that might not otherwise come up. We bring a unique perspective and we are an important voice at the symposiums.

Mark Miller, CEO of JHS Pacific

As a criminal and social justice organization with 90 years of experience advocating for and supporting our communities most vulnerable members, it was a pleasure to bring our perspectives, expertise, and program examples to this important forum.