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Snap Shot as of 1-1-2017

  • Treatment Courts: 12+
  • Year Started: 1998

Drug Treatment Courts Summary

In Canada, under the Department of Justice Canada’s DTCFP, the DTC model has continued to evolve to address local community contexts and population needs. DTCs are provincial courts. Currently, they target adult, non-violent offenders who have been charged under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) or the Criminal Code in cases where their drug addiction was a factor in the offence. Offenders who are interested in participating in the DTC are assessed to ensure that they meet the Court participation criteria. Rather than being incarcerated, DTC participants receive a non-custodial sentence upon completion of treatment.

The key elements of DTCs funded under the Department of Justice Canada’s DTCFP include:

  • a dedicated court that monitors the DTC participant’s compliance and progress;
  • the provision of appropriate drug treatment services and case management to assist the DTC participant in overcoming drug addiction; and
  • community support through referrals to social services (such as housing and employment services) that can help stabilize and support the offender in making treatment progress and in complying with the conditions of the DTC.

Each DTC has its own unique characteristics. However, there are certain characteristics that are common across the DTCs. For example, the programs are voluntary and the accused must voluntarily apply to enter the Court. The participants in the DTCs are most commonly charged with non-violent Criminal Code offences, such as theft, possession of stolen property, non-residential break and enter, mischief, and communication for the purpose of prostitution. With respect to drug offences, the more frequent offences are those of simple possession, possession for the purpose of trafficking, and trafficking (at the street level). The above-noted offences are generally known to be committed by individuals who are trying to feed an addiction.

The Crown screens potential participants for eligibility, and each DTC can set its own eligibility criteria. The Crown initially screens the applications; the Crown may also determine that an accused is suited to the DTC and suggest that he can apply for the program. The admission process is similar at the DTCs: eligible applicants are assessed by treatment personnel, but it is ultimately the judge's decision whether to admit the applicant into the program.

The accused must entera guilty pleato be admitted into the DTC program and hasa period of time (e.g., 30 days) to withdraw the guilty plea and re-enter the traditional criminal justice system. The participant is assessed in order to create a treatment plan that is tailored to his or her specific needs. DTC staff will help ensure that the participant has safe housing, stable employment, and/or an education. The length of the program is approximately one year. Each participant is subject to random urine screening.

The participant will be required to appear personally in court on a regular basis. It is expected that the participant will be honest and disclose any high-risk activities and information on whether or not he or she has relapsed. The judge will review his or her progress and can either impose sanctions (e.g., a few days in jail) or provide rewards (e.g., coffee card).

To graduate from the program, participants must meet several criteria, including being abstinent for a certain period of time, complying with all conditions of the program, and showing evidence of life skills improvement, such as finding stable housing or employment. Participants who successfully graduate from the DTC may receive a non-custodial sentence. The sentence may include a period of probation, restitution and/or fines.

Although each DTC shares the same key elements (dedicated court, treatment and community support), operational structures and processes vary to some extent. The DTC court component usually consists of a judge, Crown, defence, probation officer, court staff, police, treatment, and community liaison. The vast majority of DTC participants have multiple issues (e.g., serious addiction to illicit drugs, mental health concerns, inadequate housing, reliance on income assistance, minimal employment/education opportunities) and are assessed as medium to high risk to re-offend. A dedicated treatment plan with a strong case management component ensures that the offender is directed to existing services within the community. By accessing these services, the offender establishes a network of community supports that continues beyond the time spent in the DTC.

Solution-Focused/Specialist Courts and Specialist Court Programs in Canada

Listed By Province


Grace Froese, Edmonton Drug Treatment Court Executive Director.

Arla Liska, National Executive Director: Calgary Drug Treatment Court


Sharon Lockhart, Probation Officer and DTC Manager
Drug Treatment Court of Vancouver & CADTCP British Columbia Representative.


Jeremy Akerstream, DTC Prosecutor & CADTCP Manitoba Representative


Kara Andrews, DTC Manger: Nova Scotia DTC


Allison Radoslovich, DTC Manager

Robin Cuff, DTC Manager, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Andrew Mendes
Mayhew, Ruth, DTC Manager


Judie Birns, DTC Manager, Regina DTC

Canada News

Healthy Debate

Drug treatment courts offer an alternative to jail for people with addictions

It’s not a flashy place. The Toronto Drug Treatment Court, tucked away in a corner of Old City Hall, has plywood sheets on the walls, wires dangling where ceiling tiles should be, and a microphone that only works sporadically. Today is one of the days it doesn’t.

Read more HERE


Sun Calgary

Calgary Drug Treatment Court is being overwhelmed by the opioid crisis

An opioid crisis is driving a rising demand for the Calgary Drug Treatment Court, the program's CEO says.

Arla Liska said for about the past two years, the program has not been able to meet demand.

Read more HERE


CBC News

Court program for drug addicts helping mostly white males, report finds

A federal court program to divert drug addicts away from prison and into treatment is still not reaching the people it was supposed to help: aboriginals, women and youth.

A new evaluation says the program is largely helping white males over the age of 30, the same skewed population a previous assessment warned about six years ago.

Read more HERE


Useful Resources