Evaluation of the Aboriginal Justice Strategy
Appendix C: Case Study Summaries
Elsipogtog Restorative Justice Program
Region: New Brunswick, East-Coast
The Elsipogtog Restorative Justice Program – operated out of the Elsipogtog Health and Wellness Centre in Elsipogtog, New Brunswick, is not just limited to its band members and non-members in this community, as long there is some sort of linkage to which the community can qualify to be part of the Program. Other areas such as Indian Island and Buctouche First Nation in New Brunswick are also included in the Program.
The Program is designed as a community-based restorative justice program with the main goals and objectives to repair conflicts between people within the community and the mainstream justice system (MJS). For example, with an assault, the offenders will be reunited with their victim through healing circles for both youth (12+) and adults (pre- and post-discharge). Healing circles have been identified as an effective measure to repairing the relationships that have been impacted by the crime. This is central to the Program’s framework, which emphasizes the restoration of the relationships between the offender and the victim.
The Program utilizes a number of methods which are able to further assess and direct the clients’ healing needs. For example, the Case Management Inventory for adults is used to determine a client’s risk level (the risk of re-offending can be scored low, medium, and high). If medium or high, clients can be referred to mental health and addictions programs, anger management, or for youth not in school, work promotion. Based on the four quadrants of the medicine wheel, the Program looks at the relationship between the individual, the victim and the community in terms of spiritual, mental, physical and emotional healing.
In addition, the Program seeks to reconcile victims and offenders through the use of traditional sentencing circles. The offender must be prepared to hear from the victims, their families and supporters of the victims. The victims of the offence can choose whether or not to have the crime dealt with through restorative justice approaches. Their experience and wishes for addressing the impact of the crime are heard and they must agree before commencing a sentencing circle. The victims, in collaboration with the Justice Committee, must agree to the proposed sentence. The goal is for the victims to find safety in their community with the support and changes undertaken by the offenders as part of the sentencing circle's decision. However, it was noted that one of the more challenging pieces for this program has been getting victims to speak of their experience within the circle – more often than not, victims are reluctant to address the offenders.
The Program is also supported by a Healing to Wellness Court. Referrals have been increasing and the MJS encourages referrals of offenders to this restorative justice program first. The Program has been able to enhance the previously antagonistic relationship between the community and the police and RCMP through healing circles.
Punky Lake Wilderness Camp Society Tsilhqot'in Community Justice Program
Region: Central British Columbia
The Punky Lake Wilderness Camp Society Tsilhqot’in Community Justice Program is composed of the Tsilhqot’in Justice Team (a team of youth and adult justice coordinators), and members of the seven communities: Tl’etinqox (Anaham); Tŝi Deldel (Redstone); Yuneŝit’in (Stone); Xeni (Nemiah Valley); Tl’esqox (Toosey); Ulkatcho (Anahim Lake); and Esdilagh (Alexandria). The team addresses justice issues and resolutions appropriate to the communities using practical community-based approaches while integrating restorative justice into the Program. It addresses the issue of over-incarceration through various programs that focus on the re-integration of the offenders through the Restorative Justice Program. The Program is designed to increase pre-charge and post-charge referrals, help repair relationships severed by acts of harm, encourage the involvement of Elders and community members by having them take part in healing circles and justice committees, and ensure that justice strategies are holistic. Types of activities offered through the Tsilhqot’in Community Justice Program include: Adult and Youth Case Aid, probation referrals, community work service, advocacy and community restorative justice training for RCMP, community referrals, peacemaking circles in communities, traditional justice practices, Tsilhqot'in Justice Committee meetings, and conflict resolution circles.
Over the past few years, the Program’s approach has been to incorporate restorative justice into its framework. Though proving challenging in its beginning stages, the case study analysis presents evidence that this approach has become much more common within communities as an alternative to mainstream justice programming. A shift in administrative attitudes that support a restorative justice framework built on collaboration was identified as one of the main reasons for the increase in restorative justice approaches. Increased community awareness and acceptance of the Program has been attributed to an increased presence of Program staff at community functions outside of the Program. This has encouraged the communities’ trust and acceptance of the Program. Program administration places importance on having a transparent relationship with communities. Community buy-in for the program is further enhanced by the Program’s Justice Committee Board, which is composed of community representatives from the seven participating communities. Program delivery is based on the values of each community participating within the Program.
Positive outcomes of the Program include forging relationships with the MJS, for example, Crown, RCMP detachments, probation offices, Williams Lake Restorative Justice, and the Ministry of Children and Family Development in the region, as well as relationships within and outside of the Program. According to the Program and the MJS, improved communication has resulted in stronger and more positive working relationships than in previous years. Referral services have also seen an increase based partly on the relationship between all parties, and partly as a result of a change in the overall criteria for participants.
The establishment of collaborative and transparent relationships with community partners and the MJS were identified as best practices, as well as the development of a reputable program that has become popular among participants, non-participants, and communities outside of the Program’s reach.
Saskatoon Tribal Council Community Justice, Extrajudicial Measures and Opikinawasowin Reintegration Programs
The objective of the Saskatoon Tribal Council community-based justice programs is to provide support and assistance to youth, adults and their families for the duration of their involvement in the justice system, with a particular focus on youth. The programs offered include:
- Extrajudicial Measures Program which provides mediation services to youth (12-17 years) who are referred for first-time and less serious offenses
- Extrajudicial Sanctions Program which provides mediation services to youth (12-17 years) as well as intensive support services, and is aimed at those who have been charged with break and enter/related offenses.
- Enhanced Extrajudicial Sanctions Program which provides mediation services to youth (12-17 years) to deal with first-time and less serious offenses by providing intensive support using a case management model based on a community safety plan.
- Youth and Community Reintegration which provides mentoring and support to youth and young adults (12-24 years) currently serving time in a secure or open facility and getting ready to make a transition into community living.
The model employed in service delivery focuses on integrated services in a family centered case management model. All urban justice programs are housed under one roof, with the Community Justice Worker assigned to each community working directly in each community. There is one program director for all programs and one program coordinator for the Community Justice Workers in each of the communities working out of the Saskatoon office. This way of organizing the service delivery makes it easier for workers to exchange information about individuals as they proceed from one part of the Program to the other, or return to other programs (e.g., diversion client who moves to community reintegration services). The focus of the Program in recent years has been on increasing Extrajudicial Sanctions (youth) and Alternative Measures (adult) referrals to the Program. This is achieved by liaising with the RCMP, city police and Crown prosecutors. It has been met with mixed results in recent years. The organization reports an increase of nearly 100 percent of referrals, but still struggles with getting referrals from particular individuals in the MJS or from particular organizations. The main hurdles to the referrals were seen as (1) staff turnover, (2) conflicting directions received from higher up in a police or Crown office (e.g., a new director recommends that his staff not refer to community-based justice programs), (3) competition from other non-governmental organizations for the same individuals charged in the MJS, or (4) disapproval of the programs by specific individuals. In terms of staff turnover, the Saskatoon Tribal Council is dealing with this issue by investing resources in meeting with and informing MJS stakeholders about the Program, and it continues to try to inform police and Crown about the impact of their programs. For issues 2, 3 and 4, these were noted as difficult to address without more support from provincial/territorial and federal partners to foster support and better coordination within the MJS in relation to community-based justice programs.
Case study respondents clearly indicated that they worked to ensure that the community-based justice programs were developed to ensure that they responded to the needs of Indigenous people in the communities. This was done through programs being run by and for Indigenous people, and ensuring that some of the programming focused on culture and heritage. The support and services were offered within an Indigenous empowerment framework to ensure that they were culturally appropriate. Participants appreciated having a program that understood the realities of being Indigenous in the MJS. This generally meant that they felt they could open up more and would be understood rather than judged. This often helped build more quickly the trust necessary to ensure that participants accessed services, spoke about the root cause of their criminal behavior, and stayed in the programs.
Overall, case study respondents reported that the programs were increasing access for community members, that without AJS funding it would be difficult to offer these alternative justice programs and that, instead of focusing on addressing the root causes of negative behavior and providing healing opportunities to victims and community members, programs participants would likely instead take up space in the MJS. These programs helped many victims and community members feel safer because they were able to talk to the offender and, in some cases, get resolution. For example, owners of stores that were vandalized had restitution through work from the offenders and eventually hired them to work in the store; offenders who did so because of addictions, mental health issues or family conflicts received the treatment and support they needed not to re-offend (root causes were addressed); and victims got apologies, were relieved to know that the offenders would be held responsible/get treatment, and had empathy for them (in some cases, knowing they were randomly targeted relieved victims from feeling they had done something to cause an attack). In a few cases, offenders who had benefitted from diversion programs were able to use their experiences and work in the social services field because they did not have criminal records.
In addition to these benefits, the case study respondents indicated that in some cases, communities were safer and crime was being prevented. However, this was not the case in other communities because of external factors such as an increase in gang activity, low levels of employment or new, more powerful drugs being available in the communities.
The use of a Regional Coordinator was considered effective and efficient. The Coordinator helped with keeping track of activities and issues for each community, provided support to the Community Justice Workers through training and sharing of tools and information, and ensured a smoother transition for any new hires.
United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising Community Justice Program
The United Chiefs and Council of Mnidoo Mnising manages and delivers justice-related programs to the following six communities in Ontario: Omni Kaning, M'Chigeeng, Sheguiandah, Sheshegwaning, Whitefish River and Zhiibaahaasing. The Community Justice Program was created in response to community needs in addressing the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system, the ubiquity of alcohol and drug addictions throughout the young population, and the high unemployment rate in the communities.
The Community Justice Program provides pre-charge and post-charge diversion through justice circles for youth and adult band members, both on- and off-reserve, located in the Manitoulin District. With the support of Elders, the Program has administered over 500 justice circles since 1994.
The objective of the Program is to employ traditional law principles of accountability, healing, and making amends in order to develop a Plan of Action for offenders who have accepted responsibility for their offences. When developing a client’s Plan, social history and availability of rehabilitative services are examined. For example, in some instances, a Plan may focus on life skills that are transferable to employment skills upon completion of the Program, while others may target education, the need for social work, mental health, and addictions services.
In addition to a Plan of Action, the Program also delivers a twelve-session mandatory victim empathy program that incorporates Anishnabe justice principles and approaches. Indigenous traditional knowledge is incorporated as a form of positive healing. The cultural principles and approaches employed by the United Chiefs and Council of Mnidoo Mnising have proven to be very successful, as clients often return as participants or leaders. The Plan, in combination with the victim empathy program, are designed to promote and support healing for the victim, offender and community.
The Program’s Justice Panel is comprised of Elders with a strong foundation in the Annishnabe culture and language, as well as representatives from the six communities.
The United Chiefs and Council of Mnidoo Mnising has managed to build and strengthen its collaborative approaches with justice stakeholders such as the Crown, in large part due to the redesign of administrative responsibilities within the Program. This is a positive shift from previous years, at which time Program management was not successful in creating collaborative working relationships with the Crown. The relationship with the Crown has enabled the Program to develop an approach that involves the community, restorative and traditional Program components, and the MJS.
Overall, the Program receives more referrals from the MJS (such as the Crown and Ontario Provincial Policing) than the Aboriginal Policing Program. The United Chiefs and Council of Mnidoo Mnising also delivers a pre-charge diversion program that is offered with the Aboriginal Policing Program in which clients may be referred to the Crown. For every three referrals, the Program receives one referral from the Ontario Provincial Police. Moving forward, the United Chiefs and Council of Mnidoo Mnising would like to develop a practice of more regular referrals with the Aboriginal Policing Program.
Kwanlin Dun First Nation Social Justice Program
The Kwanlin Dun First Nation Social Justice Program is part of a broad approach to community justice. The community has a long-term strategic plan and a justice mission, which is as follows:
“To provide a comprehensive range of justice, corrections, child welfare and land-based and cultural healing related programs and services to the citizens of Kwanlin Dun First Nation and other people; in addition, to build further capacity for the implementation of self-government in community justice and related areas.”
Kwanlin Dun First Nation is a self-governing Indigenous community in Whitehorse, Yukon. Its government has established a justice mandate that includes a number of elements: justice program and restorative justice; child welfare; land-based healing and related programs; administration of justice agreements and related work; community justice and safety; support to the Judicial Council; and interdepartmental initiatives. AJS helps fund the justice programming and restorative justice component, and the community contributes funds from its own revenue and other government sources to finance the full mandate. The justice programming and restorative justice component provides assistance and support using First Nation values, restorative justice principles and practices where possible, to Kwanlin Dun First Nation citizens and families in conflict with the law or in need of support with victim services, child welfare, probation, corrections or court-related services.
At present, the community’s justice programs focus on ensuring that citizens are supported in their involvement with the MJS, and then providing them with restorative programs to integrate them back into community life in a positive way. A key aspect of this programming is the Jackson Lake Wellness Team, which offers land-based healing at a wilderness camp close to the community. The Team provides outreach and counselling for people working through trauma, grief, addictions or emotional problems, and then provides the four-week wilderness healing experience, followed by aftercare.
As the justice programming has progressed, Kwanlin Dun First Nation has come to realize the critical link between child welfare and justice. Their former Justice Support Worker is now the Children and Family Liaison Worker, acknowledging the fact that the great majority of his justice support work had been related to child and family issues. And now about 40% of the child and family files are justice related. Also key is that a case management approach is adopted, so community social workers, educators, health and mental health workers and others work together with a family and neighbors to find a recovery path.
Community safety remains a serious issue at Kwanlin Dun First Nation. Crime, including violent crime, is still prevalent, in part because of its proximity to Whitehorse and the fact that people from communities throughout Yukon come to the city and often stay on Kwanlin Dun First Nation land. The community is seeing progress with citizens who participate in the programs, especially the Jackson Lake Wellness Program, which has developed a reputation for fostering healing and the recovery of spiritual and cultural health.
Manitoba Métis Federation and Métis Justice Institute, Métis Community Justice Program
The Métis Community Justice Program, developed in 2003 by the Métis Justice Institute, is a justice alternative that supports the diversion of Métis individuals from the formal criminal justice system. The Program is different from most AJS community justice programs in that its clientele is widely dispersed across the province of Manitoba since the Métis do not have one distinct territory. Services provided by the Program are brought to individual communities in light of the lack of resources in particular regions.
Community-based justice programming is used to support alternative justice models for the diversion of residents within the different service regions. The Program is arranged so that if the charge occurs in one community, the offenders have the opportunity to conduct their community service within that community. The other component of the Program involves engaging participating communities to identify their needs for community service hours. Further, keeping the offender within the community allows offenders and victims to reconcile and creates the opportunity for the holistic healing of the victim, offender and community.
The Program has been successful in training Community Justice Workers in anger management across the region. There has also been a significant increase in cooperation from communities to facilitate using community service as part of participants’ plans within the Program. Lastly, the resource database (funded by the Capacity Building Fund) provides access to over 650 service providers that have been vetted by the Program. This has resulted in positive outcomes in terms of access to service providers. Further, the Program has altered the database to allow all Community Justice Workers access to the client files, which includes identifying services being directed. This enables more effective treatment of clients to ensure a higher standard of service without delay (for example, if one Community Justice Worker is on leave, another can access the files to ensure quality service).
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