Alberta Ombudsman releases own motion investigation report into the Criminal Code Review Board
Every Albertan has the right to fair treatment when accessing public services. As an independent Officer of the Legislative Assembly, the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction includes the Criminal Code Review Board (CCRB).
The CCRB serves both the patient and the public and is responsible for determining the fate of individuals found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder or unfit to stand trial. In deciding about a patient’s rights and freedoms, the CCRB holds public safety as the highest priority.
In November 2021, the Alberta Ombudsman office received a complaint from an individual who had been found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder, with concerns about the CCRB. The concerns he highlighted were the following: he was unable to fully participate in the hearing, the CCRB did not consider his evidence, he believed the decision makers showed a bias against him and he was unaware of the process and available appeals.
Following this complaint, the Alberta Ombudsman launched an own motion investigation to look deeper into whether the CCRB had sufficient rules, policies and procedures in place to ensure administratively fair hearings and decisions.
The investigation included multiple moving parts such as conducting a scan of review boards from other Canadian provinces and territories, a review of the CCRB procedures, attendance at twenty virtual CCRB hearings, interviews with external authorities, file reviews and consultations with the CCRB.
At the conclusion of the investigation, the Alberta Ombudsman found that the CCRB has informal, written documents that outline its process. Further, CCRB panels follow a consistent hearing process and treat patients in an administratively fair manner, before, during and after hearings.
While there was strong evidence of compassion and a well-functioning system, the CCRB agreed with the Alberta Ombudsman that there are areas for improvement. The Ombudsman’s investigation identified two key findings, a lack of publicly available information and an absence of formal internal policies.
The Ombudsman recommended the CCRB develop publicly available information, explaining its role and processes. The information should detail the CCRB’s process before, during and after hearings. Additionally, although the current CCRB processes are consistent, they are not formalized. The Ombudsman recommended the CCRB consider consolidating its manuals and guides into one formalized policy and creating rules regarding its practice and procedure.
In June 2023, the Assistant Deputy Minister for Court and Justice Services Division accepted the Ombudsman’s recommendations. The department has already begun work to provide information about its purpose and function and formalize its policy, with plans to launch a new website by the end of 2023.
While the investigation into the CCRB is closed, The Ombudsman’s office looks forward to reviewing the positive changes in the CCRB’s operations as part of its commitment to fostering fairness and transparency.
The Alberta Ombudsman’s full report – Government of Alberta Criminal Code Review Board Own Motion Investigation can be found here.