Feds update prosecution guidelines to address systemic discrimination

Kathleen Roussel

The Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) announced changes to the “Decision to Prosecute” guideline of the PPSC Deskbook.

The PPSC Deskbook sets standards of conduct for federal prosecutors to ensure the objectivity, fairness, transparency, and consistency of prosecutions through a compilation of directives and guidelines.

The update is the result of an ongoing assessment of Government policies, practices and procedures. The aim is to provide clear guidance to prosecutors on how to be more proactive and conscious about recognizing bias, discrimination, and other factors contributing to over-representation.

The changes to guideline of the Deskbook are significant. They include:

– Supporting the implementation of various measures to reduce, recognize and challenge individual and institutional biases in prosecutorial decisions, which can help prevent wrongful convictions;

– Providing a framework to consider background and systemic factors. These factors are considered not only as they relate to the accused, but also to the victim and affected communities, particularly Indigenous women and girls;

– Clarifying situations where the public interest may not require a prosecution. For example, where:

 – The accused was the victim of serious state misconduct or systemic discrimination;

 – The prosecution of routine non-serious offences would disproportionally impact Indigenous, Black and racialized persons highly overrepresented in the criminal justice system; and – Alternatives to a prosecution would be more appropriate, such as restorative justice programs in First Nations, M├ętis, or Inuit communities.

In a note to staff, the Director of Public Prosecutions Kathleen Roussel said: “By applying this guideline, you are contributing to a criminal justice system that truly serves the public interest. When each of us takes part in translating our values into action, we are able to meet our organizational priorities and the goals we set for ourselves in PPSC’s Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility (EDIA) Action Plan. In turn, this brings us closer to achieving our mission to make Canada a safe and just society.”

The Public Prosecution Service of Canada is a national organization responsible for prosecuting offences under federal jurisdiction in a manner that is free of any improper influence and that respects the public interest. The PPSC is also responsible for providing prosecution-related advice to law enforcement agencies across Canada.