Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you as usual to the members of the committee. I certainly appreciate the opportunity to be here before you to give some brief remarks, and then I will look to answer some questions.
As you indicated, I'm joined by Nathalie Drouin, deputy minister of justice and deputy attorney general of Canada; Johanne Bernard, assistant deputy minister, management sector, and chief financial officer; and Carole Morency. Joining us as well are François Daigle, associate deputy minister; and Elizabeth Hendy, director general, programs branch. I'm also joined by representatives of a number of the independent agencies and organizations that fall within my portfolio.
I would like to discuss how the Department of Justice intends to use the funds granted through the 2018-19 main estimates to promote and maintain a fair, transparent, and accessible justice system while providing high-quality legal services to the federal government. These include a wide range of legal advisory litigation and legislative services to government departments and agencies.
The Department of Justice has a total budgetary authority of $697.75 million through the 2018-19 main estimates, an increase of $42 million from the previous fiscal year. This additional funding is for major priorities, including federal support to the family justice system, immigration and refugee legal aid, and the indigenous justice program, among others.
Much of this year's authority will support the stewardship of the Canadian legal framework by directing funding to the provinces and territories with whom we share responsibility to administer justice.
The funding will help maintain and support a bilingual and bijural national legal framework. Funding through the main estimates will also support the department's ability to transform and modernize the justice system in keeping with the values of Canadians while protecting and maintaining the rights enshrined in the Constitution and in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Our review of the criminal justice system is ongoing. It is intended to ensure that our criminal laws protect Canadians, hold offenders to account, meet the highest standards of fairness and equity, respect the charter, and demonstrate the utmost compassion to victims. These efforts will help strengthen public confidence in the justice system and judicial institutions. Our review, along with results of other consultations and government priorities, is already informing initiatives and reforms that we are introducing to modernize the criminal justice system.
In March, I introduced Bill C-75 to help reduce court delays and to address the overrepresentation of indigenous peoples and vulnerable populations as both victims and accused in the criminal justice system. We anticipate the bill will come to this committee shortly.
In Bill C-75 we are proposing amendments to the bail regime and to how breaches of administration of justice offences are handled. In particular, these changes will help eliminate the unnecessary detention of individuals pending trial, will help eliminate unnecessary bail conditions, and will ensure that fewer people are needlessly charged and convicted of minor administrative offences that do not impact public safety.
These measures will have a particularly positive impact on indigenous and marginalized Canadians who are disproportionately represented in our remand population, and who are disproportionately charged and convicted of administration of justice offences.
We are encouraging the selection of juries that better reflect the diversity of our communities, and we are bringing in stronger measures to address the problem of intimate partner violence. We are also proposing measures that will avoid re-traumatizing victims by reducing the number of inquiries and issues for which they have to testify.
In addition, Bill C-75 will reclassify many offences in the Criminal Code to give our prosecutors the discretion they need to choose the most efficient and appropriate procedure.
Our government has also launched measures to better support indigenous people and vulnerable persons as they navigate the criminal justice system. We continue to fund the indigenous court work program with $9.5 million annually. Integrating indigenous culture, language, and traditions, these court workers provide direct services before, during, and after court. They also provide courts with crucial information to guide sentencing and bail decisions while connecting victims, witnesses, and family members to culturally safe assistance. In 2016-17, over 75,000 indigenous men, women, and young people in over 435 communities received these services.
We have stabilized funding to the indigenous justice program, with over $11 million per year ongoing, to increase the use of restorative justice and reduce the rate of indigenous incarceration.
Since 2015-16, we have continually increased our funding to the department's legal aid program to fund provincial and territorial criminal legal aid programs. This helps economically disadvantaged persons at risk of incarceration, and youth facing prosecution under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
The department's youth justice fund supports projects with alternatives to incarceration, and encourages a more effective youth justice system. That includes just over $6.5 million towards 16 multi-year projects that focus on culturally relevant programming for indigenous youth in the criminal justice system.
We have also increased funding to immigration and refugee legal aid by over $14 million, with an additional $3 million in contribution funding for legal aid systems and access to justice services.
Mr. Chair, our government is committed to ensuring that victims of sexual assault and gender-based violence are treated with the utmost respect and dignity. The Department of Justice victims fund provides $27.4 million in grants and contributions, supporting 476 projects across Canada. This funding supports research, innovative pilot projects, and front-line services for victims and survivors of crime across Canada.
In 2017-18, more than 100 victims of human trafficking received case management and related services, and more than 450 women and girls at risk received information about services and assistance.
In budget 2017, our government introduced its gender-based violence strategy and over $100 million over five years. Budget 2018 contributed an additional $86 million over five years, and $20 million annually thereafter, to expand on the strategy, with my department as a key contributor.
Budget 2018 proposed $50.4 million over five years to address sexual harassment in the workplace, $25.4 million for boosting legal support funding across the country to support legal action by victims, and $25 million for outreach.
We have continued our efforts to promote and maintain a more diverse judiciary. Since 2015, I have made 179 appointments and elevations. Of these appointees, over half are women, eight are indigenous, 15 are visible minorities, 11 identify as LGBTQ2, and three are persons with a disability. We continue to fund the necessary training for a more culturally sensitive and responsive bench, as well.
Finally, last month I introduced Bill C-78, the first changes to the Divorce Act in more than 20 years. The proposed reforms will ensure that our family law system is focused on the best interest of the child, better supports the safety and well-being of individuals and families, and is more efficient.
Our commitment to improving family justice includes budget 2018 funding of $77.2 million over four years and a further $20.8 million ongoing to expand the unified family courts across the country. This measure will create 39 new judicial positions across a number of provinces, while enhancing access to justice and improving outcomes for families and individuals.
Again, Mr. Chair, I would certainly like to thank the members of this committee for their ongoing work, and I look forward to our discussions today.