Introduction

The Criminal Code gives the federal Minister of Justice the power to review a conviction under a federal law to determine whether there may have been a miscarriage of justice, or what is often called a “wrongful conviction.” If a miscarriage of justice likely occurred, the Minister of Justice has the authority to order a new trial or refer the matter to the court of appeal for the province or the territory in question.

If you want your conviction reviewed, you must submit an application to the Minister of Justice. You can prepare the application yourself, or have a representative (e.g. your lawyer) prepare the application on your behalf.

Basic Principles

The powers of the Minister of Justice to review convictions are set out in sections 696.1 to 696.6 of the Criminal Code. The procedure that applies to conviction reviews is laid out in the Regulations Respecting Applications for Ministerial Review - Miscarriages of Justice.

The Minister’s power to correct a miscarriage of justice is an “extraordinary” one which can only be exercised in those exceptional cases where a person presents new and significant information that casts doubt on the correctness of that person’s conviction.

The role of the Minister is not to second-guess the decision rendered by the courts or to substitute his or her opinion of the evidence or the arguments already considered by the courts. The Minister does not decide if a convicted person is guilty or innocent. That role is assigned to the courts.

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