Legislation and Policy


The Criminal Code and the Youth Criminal Justice Act enable restorative justice processes to occur within the criminal justice system.

For example, section 717 of the Criminal Code describes Alternative Measures. Sometimes referred to as “diversion”, alternative measures may promote a sense of responsibility in the offender and an acknowledgment of the harm done, without going through the formal court process. Diversion refers to any program, strategy, or response used to hold someone accountable for their actions.

Section 718 of the Criminal Code includes sentencing objectives that are consistent with a restorative approach, including that a sentence imposed provide reparations for harm done to victims or to the community, or promotes a sense of responsibility in offenders and acknowledgement of the harm done to victims or to the community. Additionally, conditional sentences (as described in section 742) sometimes are imposed in keeping with restorative justice objectives.

The Youth Criminal Justice Act includes an approach and several provisions that are consistent with a restorative approach, including in section 3 (Declaration of Principle), sections 4 and 5 (Principles and Objectives of Extrajudicial Measures and Sanctions), sections 19 and 41 (Conferences), and section 42 (Youth Sentences).

In 2015, a reference to restorative justice was made in both the Victims Bill of Rights Act and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

Shared Responsibility

In Canada, the federal Parliament is responsible for the enactment of criminal law, while the provinces and territories are responsible for the administration of justice. This means that federal, provincial and territorial governments work closely together on matters relating to criminal justice, including restorative justice.

In December 2018, Federal Provincial Territorial Ministers Responsible for Justice and Public Safety approved a minimum target of a 5% increase in restorative justice referrals and processes for victims and offenders. The following report provides baseline data to measure achievement of this target.

Increasing the Use of Restorative Justice in Criminal Matters in Canada - Baseline Report

In addition, two key policy documents were approved: Principles and Guidelines for Restorative Justice Practice in Criminal Matters (2018) and Restorative Justice – Key Elements of Success.

International Contribution

Internationally, the Department of Justice, in collaboration with Global Affairs Canada, has coordinated the adoption of key resolutions on restorative justice at the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ) in 1999, 2002, 2016 and 2018. Some highlights include:

In May 2020, Canada was recognized internationally and presented at the launch of the recently updated United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Handbook on Restorative Justice Programmes (Second Edition).


Footnote 3

The 2016 resolution to the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ) on Restorative Justice in Criminal Matters was adopted by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) at their meeting on July 26, 2016.

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