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Bill Morneau

Budget 2019 includes more cash for reconciliation, immigration legal aid and judges for Federal Court

Tuesday, March 19, 2019 @ 5:42 PM | By Cristin Schmitz

Annual updates to federal regulations, a broadened money laundering offence, more judges and cash for the Federal Court and a boost for immigration legal aid are among the justice-related measures Ottawa announced in the 2019 federal budget.

As well, the budget introduced in the Commons March 19, 2019, by federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau also proposes to spend almost $3.1 billion over three years to replenish the Specific Claims Settlement Fund, and more than $9 million over three years to help build the Indigenous Legal Lodge at the University of Victoria.

Bill Morneau

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau

“We have been focused on reconciliation with Indigenous peoples since day one,” Morneau told reporters during a press conference. “In 2015, ... we spent $11 billion on our focus on Indigenous Peoples. When you look at what we’ve put forth in this budget we’ll be at $17 billion plus in 2020-21 — an enormous difference that’s going to make a long-term difference.”

The Indigenous Legal Lodge will be the headquarters of the University of Victoria’s dual Common law and Indigenous Legal Orders degree and provide a place for debate, learning, public education and partnerships in revitalizing Indigenous law.

Proposed Indigenous peoples-related legal measures include:

  • $10 million over five years, starting in 2019-20, to support Indigenous law initiatives; for example by law schools, that are aimed at improving equality for Indigenous peoples in the legal system, through the Justice Partnership and Innovation Program.

  • $40 million over five years ($8 million a year), starting in 2019-20, to First Nations to help them research and develop their claims.

  • Renewal and replenishment of funding for the Specific Claims Settlement Fund which pays out specific claims via negotiated settlements or Specific Claims Tribunal awards of $3.085 billion (on a cash basis) over three years starting in 2019-20 (about $875 million in the first year; $1.07 billion in the second year; and $1.148 billion in the third year).

  • Funding of $1.4 billion over seven years, starting in this 2018-19 fiscal year, to forgive all outstanding comprehensive claim negotiation loans ($938 million) and to reimburse Indigenous governments that have already repaid these loans ($491 million), which will assist more than 200 Indigenous communities.

Other proposed law-related funding in the budget includes:

  • A $52 million boost, over three years, to legal aid funding for immigration cases.

  • $52 million over five years, starting in 2019-20, plus after that, $10.1 million per year indefinitely, to protect against fraudulent immigration consultants and “improve oversight of immigration consultants and strengthen compliance and enforcement measures” in the event of fraud or misrepresentation, the government says in its budget documents.

  • $22 million over three years, starting in 2019-20, to combat online child sexual exploitation — including increasing the ability to pursue and prosecute offenders.

  • $2 million to the Parole Board of Canada and the RCMP to implement the new expedited pardon regime for simple cannabis possession proposed by Bill C-93.

  • For the Courts Administration Service (CAS) — which is the registry for the Federal Court, Federal Court of Appeal, Tax Court and Court Martial Appeal Court, an additional $33 million (on a cash — not accrual — basis) over five years, starting in 2019-20. The money will be used to relocate the Federal Court’s Montreal court location from the Old Port to an unspecified location in the justice district and equip those premises. The money will also be used to increase the court’s capacity to translate its decisions on a more timely basis, including hiring jurilinguists.

  • The Office of the Privacy Commissioner will get $22 million over five years, starting in 2019-20, and $4 million per year indefinitely after that, to enhance its capacity to engage with individuals and businesses on privacy issues, undertake research, raise awareness and deal with its inventory of complaints. This is on top of its regular budget, which was nearly $23 million in 2018-2019.

  • The Office of the Information Commissioner, with a budget this year of $10 million, will get a further $3 million in 2019-20 to enhance its capacity to resolve new and existing access requests.

  • Public legal education and information services: $8.1 million over five years, starting in 2019-20, and after that $1.62 million per year ongoing, to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to support growing demand for public legal education and information services across Canada.

  • Boosting access to family justice in both official languages: $21.6 million over five years, starting in 2020-21, to support legislative amendments that provide for increased access to family law justice and divorce in the official language of one’s choice. Justice Canada will deliver the funds to increase the availability of bilingual services in the family justice system.

  • The Canadian Human Rights Commission: $3.9 million over five years, starting in 2019-20, and after that $0.7 million per year indefinitely, for a modern and streamlined case management system. CHRC had a budget of $22.5 million in 2018-19, but its caseload will expand with the creation of pay equity and accessibility commissioners.

  • The Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs: $5.7 million over five years, starting in 2019-20 and after that, $1.1 million per year ongoing, to provide per diems to the non-judge members of the 17 judicial advisory committees which vet candidates for the federal benches.

  • Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC): an additional $89 million over five years, starting with $4 million in 2019-20, and after that $21.2 million per year ongoing in support of its responsibilities to prosecute offences under federal law. Most of the prosecutions are drug crimes. The PPSC’s budget in 2018-19 was $181.5 million. As of March 31, 2018, it had 1,040 employees, and in addition retained the services of about 179 private-sector law firms, and 432 individually appointed lawyers as standing agents. The PPSC has faced an increased workload, partly because of the timelines created by the Jordan ruling from the Supreme Court.

  • Trans Mountain Pipeline consultations and the National Energy Board reconsideration: $55 million — $25 million in this fiscal year, and $29 million in 2019-2020 — to re-initiate consultations on the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project and to support National Energy Board reconsideration of the proposed project.

Forthcoming legislative measures announced in the budget include:

  • Amendments to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. The Criminal Code would be amended to add an alternative requirement of recklessness to the offence of money laundering to “provide law enforcement with an important practical tool in the fight against professional money launderers in Canada,” the government says. “This would criminalize the activity of moving money on behalf of another person or organization while being aware that there is a risk that this activity could be money laundering and continuing with that activity in spite of the risk.”

  • Amendments to the Canada Business Corporations Act that would enable Revenue Canada (and eventually Revenue Quebec) and the RCMP and provincial law enforcement agencies to demand, without a warrant, the beneficial ownership information that federally incorporated corporations are required to maintain. (Ottawa is still discussing with provincial authorities the possibility of creating a publicly available beneficial ownership registry.)

  • Amendments to the Federal Court Act to create three new judicial positions to speed up and improve the court’s capacity to judicially review asylum claims.

  • Amendments to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act to add Revenu Quebec and the Competition Bureau as recipients of the FINTRAC’s financial information, and to “expand the definition of designated information, clarify terminology and improve readability.”

  • Amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) to “better manage, discourage and prevent irregular migration,” and to the IRPA and the Citizenship Act, to help protect newcomers against “unscrupulous immigration consultants.”

  • Amendments to the Criminal Code and Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act and “complementary legislative measures to strengthen Canada’s legal framework and support FINTRAC’s operational capacity.) (A Finance department official told The Lawyer’s Daily this will not include any measures to compel lawyers to report on their clients' financial transactions to FINTRAC.)

  • Legislation to start work on an annual modernization bill consisting of legislative amendments to various statutes to help eliminate outdated federal regulations and update existing regulations.

  • Amendments to the Canada Border Services Agency Act (CBSA) and the RCMP Act and other statutes to expand the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission to act as an independent review body for the CBSA and RCMP.