4. Future Direction and Priorities

The AJD will continue to actively implement the components of the AJS over the final two fiscal years of its current mandate. Four priorities will guide the work of the AJD during the next fiscal year (2005-06):

  • deliver community-based programs, self-government negotiations and funding arrangements, and manage the AJD (including human resources management);
  • build better outreach and partnerships;
  • demonstrate results, and;
  • develop a new mandate for the AJS beyond March 2007.

Deliver AJS and Manage AJD

In collaboration with provincial and territorial partners, the AJD will negotiate funding arrangements for existing community-based justice programs and will meet with Aboriginal communities and organizations regarding new proposals. It will engage its federal, provincial and territorial partners in the development of joint pilot projects related to the delivery of the AJS. With partners, it will explore innovative and cost-efficient ways to meet community needs, facilitate information exchange, and address operational issues. There will be a focus on building the capacity of community-based programs by ensuring better trained staff in funded programs.

The AJD will work with provincial and territorial counterparts to put in place a standard framework for the evaluation of community-based programs. It will create a process that allows Regional Coordinators and Program Analysts to feed into evaluations, and from the performance reports it will produce statistics and identify best practices.

The Self-Government Capacity Building Fund will be evaluated to ensure that it is being delivered optimally. The AJD will participate in the development of guidelines for federal negotiators in relation to the enforcement, adjudication and administration of First Nations laws.

Internally, the AJD will enhance its human resources strategy to ensure full use and development of existing talents and resources.

Build Outreach and Partnerships

The AJD has recognized that, in its existing form, the AJLN has not been able to satisfactorily achieve expected results. In 2005-06, the AJD will work to build a new Outreach and Partnership component with the goal of creating a communications centre for Aboriginal justice.

The AJD will begin by hosting a strategic planning session with key stakeholders to help it develop a new, coordinated action plan to implement outreach and partnership objectives. The action plan might include for example: creating a new visual identity and logo for the AJS; redesigning and updating the web site to position it as a key dissemination point for Aboriginal justice information; developing and implementing a communications strategy that builds awareness and knowledge of the AJS internally and externally; developing an events strategy that identifies and plans for the attendance of AJS staff at events suited to the promotion of the Strategy; and building partnerships with other stakeholders who can champion the AJS within their professional networks.

The Outreach and Partnership component will also work to address the under-representation of Aboriginal people in justice professions. It will seek and support opportunities to increase awareness among Aboriginal people of justice professions as career options, it will engage AJD legal counsel in the strategy, and it will identify opportunities for communications and marketing.

Demonstrate Results

As the second mandate of the AJS comes to an end, it will be important to measure and demonstrate the progress that has been made towards goals. The final report associated with the formative evaluation will be delivered early in 2005-06. The AJD will make use of the information in and recommendations of the report to enhance its ability to meet its goals during the balance of the AJS mandate.

A recidivism study will be completed in 2005-06 that will assess the extent to which AJS community-based justice programs reduce re-offending among Aboriginal participants referred to them. Results will be used to determine the degree to which the AJS has contributed to a reduction in rates of victimization, crime and incarceration among Aboriginal people in communities with AJS-funded programs. The study may also offer insight into what kinds of programs work best to reduce re-offending, and what factors – including community characteristics – contribute to or hinder success.

The AJD will undertake a trends analysis of victimization, crime and incarceration rates among Aboriginal people between 1995 and 2005. Results will be used to assess the continued relevance of the AJS’s objectives (and, in particular, the objective of contributing, in the long-term, to a reduction in those rates). The trends analysis will also be used to evaluate whether the Strategy has contributed to reductions in victimization, crime and incarceration rates in communities operating AJS-funded programs.

Case studies of twelve AJS-funded community-based justice programs are planned. The studies are expected to determine whether the programs have had an impact on rates of victimization and crime in the communities in which they operate, and to identify lessons learned and best practices. The case-study communities will be matched to similar communities that do not operate justice programs to assess pre- and post-implementation impact of the programs on victimization and crime rates. The case study process will include developing a communication strategy, identifying key stakeholders for in-person interviews, creating interview guides that address the evaluation questions in the AJS RMAF, conducting the studies, and reporting findings.

Develop New Mandate

The AJD will begin to contemplate and develop a new mandate for the AJS beyond March 2007. Analysis of the results of the evaluation activities – of the AJS itself and of programs funded by it – will be an important part of the development process. The AJD will consult with federal, provincial and territorial partners to assess the contributions of the AJS to date, to forecast key Aboriginal justice issues over the next decade or so, and to discuss how, if at all, the AJS must be transformed to remain relevant and effective into the future. Aboriginal communities will also be consulted to gauge the level of support for renewal of the AJS, and to seek advice on what changes in mandate, design or delivery would make the AJS more effective during a third mandate.


The AJS is part of the federal government’s response to justice inquiries across the country that have called for the development of sustainable justice policies and programs that better meet the needs of Aboriginal people and that address their over-representation in the justice system. In collaboration with provincial and territorial partners, the AJS focuses on increasing opportunities for, and building the capacity of, Aboriginal communities to participate meaningfully in the administration of justice.

In implementing and managing the AJS, the AJD engages in a broad range of activities to achieve the goals to which the Strategy and the Directorate are dedicated. It promotes Aboriginal justice as a key policy priority, funds community-based justice programs and related capacity-building, provides legal advice to self-government negotiation tables, and is committed to supporting the creation and distribution of knowledge about Aboriginal justice initiatives.

This report highlights the work undertaken by the AJD in the first three fiscal years of the AJS’s second five-year mandate. Mid-term is an ideal time to take stock of past activities, accomplishments and shortcomings, all of which offer practical information to guide future plans.

The success of the AJS may take many forms: meaningful participation of Aboriginal communities and individuals in the administration of justice; enhanced community capacity to respond to justice issues faced by Aboriginal people; integration of culturally sensitive approaches to justice into the mainstream system; strengthened relations and partnerships between the federal government and provincial and territorial governments in the development and delivery of Aboriginal justice policy and programs; better networking, information exchange and resource sharing among stakeholders; savings to the mainstream justice system in money or work; individual, family and community healing and wellness; and, finally, less crime, safer communities, and fewer Aboriginal people in the court and correctional systems of Canada.

Ultimately, the success of the AJS will be determined by how well its component activities are managed, by the strength of the partnerships it creates and fosters, and by the extent to which it remains forward-looking and relevant. The AJD is moving forward to fulfill the current mandate of the AJS, mindful of the experiences of the past and anticipating the opportunities and challenges ahead.

Appendix 1

Aboriginal People in the Canadian Justice System:

The AJS was established as part of the federal government response to the over-representation of Aboriginal people in the Canadian justice system.

Contact with Police

Compared to the non-Aboriginal population, Aboriginal people are more likely to have some forms of contact with police.

In 1999:

  • there were virtually no differences between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in their contact with police for such interactions as public information sessions or traffic violations
  • Aboriginal people were more likely than non-Aboriginal people to have come into contact with police as victims of crime (17% compared to 13%), as witnesses to a crime (11% compared to 6%), or by virtue of being arrested (4% compared to 1%)[29]


Compared to the non-Aboriginal population, Aboriginal people are more likely to be victims of crime, victims of violent crime, and victims of spousal violence.

In 1999:

  • 35% of the Aboriginal population reported having been the victim of at least one crime in the last year, compared to 26% of the non-Aboriginal population
  • 19% of the Aboriginal population reported having been victimized more than once in the last year, compared to 10% of the non-Aboriginal population
  • Aboriginal people reported having experienced violent crime at a rate that was nearly three times that of non-Aboriginal people (307 versus 110 incidents per 1,000 population)
  • 20% of the Aboriginal population reported having been assaulted by their spouse, compared to 7% of the non-Aboriginal population[30]


Aboriginal people are over-represented in custody relative to their proportional representation in the total Canadian population.

In 1996, Aboriginal adults (18 and over) were:

  • 2% of the Canadian adult population
  • 17% of the country’s adult inmate population (18% in provincial/territorial facilities; 14% in federal custody) on snapshot day (October 5, 1996)
  • almost nine times more likely to be in custody than non-aboriginal adults[31]

In 2002-03, Aboriginal adults were:

  • 2% of the Canadian adult population
  • 20.7% of the country’s adult inmate admissions (21% in provincial/territorial facilities, up from 14% in 2001-02; 18% in federal custody, up from 15% in 2001-02)[32]

In 2003, Aboriginal youths[33] were:

  • 5% of the Canadian youth population
  • 33% of youths in custody on snapshot day (June 4, 2003)
  • almost eight times more likely to be in custody than non-aboriginal youths[34]

Characteristics of Adult Aboriginal Inmates

In 1996, Aboriginal adults in custody:

  • were younger on average, had less education and were more likely to have been unemployed prior to the offending than non-Aboriginal inmates
  • were more likely than non-Aboriginal inmates to have had prior convictions, incarcerations, and escapes or escape attempts
  • were considered higher risk to re-offend and had higher needs than non-Aboriginal inmates[35]

Appendix 2

Sample of Conferences Attended by the AJD:
2002-03, 2003-04, 2004-05

Attendance at and participation in conferences enhance the profile of the AJS, and offer an important opportunity for AJD staff to share information and expertise, stay informed about emerging issues, trends and priorities, and enhance inter-professional networks.

Annual Aboriginal Justice Conference

Each fiscal year, the AJD partners with the British Columbia government to support and attend an Aboriginal Justice conference in British Columbia. With a national focus, the conference offers a variety of workshops and presentations that address current and pressing issues including, recently, such topics as cultural challenges, mental wellness, socio-economic issues, social justice and success stories. Academics, practitioners and Aboriginal leaders, among others, are speakers and workshop facilitators.

Annual Federal Self-Government & Claims Negotiators Conference

Organized by INAC, this annual conference for federal negotiators and other participants in the negotiations process is considered to be an excellent mechanism for sharing best practices, and for identifying issues that need policy development. The AJD’s participation at the conference ensures that its counsel – who provide legal and policy advice and support to federal negotiators on “administration of justice” issues – are up-to-date on developments in the field, and are known to negotiators as a resource.

Aboriginal Family Mediators Conference (2004)

Presented in tandem with the annual conference of Family Mediation Canada – a nationwide association and resource for family mediation practitioners – the Aboriginal Family Mediators conference offered information exchange and skills development to aboriginal mediators providing services under AJS-funded community-based family mediation programs. Holding the conferences jointly created opportunities for cross-training: mainstream practitioners were exposed to restorative justice methods practiced by First Nations, and Aboriginal mediators learned about best practices in the mainstream justice system. AJD attendance offered the opportunity to promote the AJS generally, and to encourage the development of AJS-supported mediation programs, an under-used community justice program model.

Expert Seminar on Indigenous People and the Administration of Justice (2003)

Through its Director General, the AJD was an active participant in the Expert Seminar on Indigenous Peoples and the Administration of Justice held in Madrid in November of 2003. The seminar was organized by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and was attended by more than 100 experts from government, non-governmental organizations and academia. As a training and development initiative, the AJS funded the attendance at the seminar of a community-based justice program provider.

On the theme of “Discrimination Against Indigenous Peoples in the Justice System—Examples, Experiences, and Governmental, Administrative and Judicial Measures to Ensure Equitable Justice Systems”, the AJD’s Director General made a presentation to attendees on federal government programs aimed at improving the administration of justice for Aboriginal people in Canada, including the AJS. Recommendations arising from the seminar were directed to governments, to United Nations bodies, to human rights agencies and to indigenous peoples.

National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation (NAAF) Taking Pulse Conference (2003)

In May 2001, the NAAF launched Taking Pulse, an initiative designed to increase educational opportunities for and workforce participation of Aboriginal people. Taking Pulse has the support and participation of corporate Chief Executive Officers, Aboriginal leaders, government officials, educators and youth from across Canada. The 2003 conference in which the AJD participated focused on the formal development of specific programs designed to help Aboriginal people enter the economic mainstream. From that conference came the AJD’s partnership with the NAAF and others to develop – as part of the Taking Pulse “Industry in the Classroom” series – an education video, work kit and high school curriculum module – “The Circle of Justice” – designed to increase the presence of Aboriginal people in justice careers. The material is expected to be delivered for the first time in 30-50 Aboriginal high schools in the winter of 2005-06.

Aboriginal Law Conference(2002)

With a focus on aboriginal rights and title,the conference covered: the constitutional commitment to reconciliation; judicial extinguishment; contact versus sovereignty, and the appropriate threshold date for determining aboriginal rights and title; fiduciary relationships and the duty to consult; proving aboriginal rights; and uses, research on and documentation of aboriginal oral history. The conference provided informative and thought-provoking material for AJD counsel who provide legal and policy advice at self-government negotiation tables.

Canadian Evaluation Conference(2002)

Hosted by the Canadian Evaluation Society, the conference – entitled “Evidence for Better Decision-Making” – explored best practices and recent developments in performance measurement and evaluation, logic modeling, survey construction, public performance reporting, and benchmarking in the public service. Conference information was useful to the AJD in constructing an evaluation framework for the AJS, and in developing tools to assist community programs in their self-evaluation activities.

The AJD also participated in conferences of a more local nature, including:

  • Punky Lake Crime Prevention Symposia
  • Saskatchewan Indian Council Conferences
  • Nishnawbe-Aski Nation Restorative Justice Conferences

Appendix 3

Sample of AJS-Funded Community-based Justice Programs

In 2004-05, the AJS funded 109 community-based justice programs serving over 450 communities. The sample of programs described in this appendix reflects the wide variety of initiatives that may be delivered by the community with AJS support.

Yellowhead Tribal Community Corrections Society (YTCCS) First Nations Custom Advisor Panels (Alberta)

The YTCCS community-based justice program provides for the establishment and operation of First Nations Custom Advisor Panels in the communities of the five First Nations represented by the Yellowhead Tribal Council: Alexander, Alexis, Enoch, O’Chiese and Sunchild. The Custom Advisor Panels operate alternative measures programs, employing traditional, culturally relevant methods to address conflicts in an open and transparent forum. The Panels are especially important to the Yellowhead communities because there are no other institutional settings for the orderly airing and just resolution of individual conflicts, political disagreements or community discord.

In the 1400-member community of Alexis, located outside of Edmonton, there is a more fulsome restorative justice model at work. The provincial court is located on the Alexis Reserve, where it works closely with a Justice Committee, comprised of volunteer Aboriginal Elders, in delivering a blend of mainstream and Aboriginal justice in the community. The justice model is treatment-based, not punishment-oriented, and makes use of restorative justice strategies wherever appropriate. Dispositions seek to address the underlying causes of crime, and include both deterrent and rehabilitative components.

Gitxsan Unlocking Aboriginal Justice Program (British Columbia)

The Gitxsan Unlocking Aboriginal Justice Program (GUAJP) operates diversion and community sentencing programs for six bands in northern British Columbia with a total population of about 8000. The program is based on beliefs that under-gird the House system: the actions and behaviour of one individual reflect on the whole of the House; the entire House is affected by the offences of an individual.

Referrals to the GUAJP come from individuals, the RCMP, the Crown and other community agencies. The acceptance of a referral depends on House support of the offender and the victim, as well as on the offender’s willingness to participate and the victim’s consent. The program uses a variety of processes and dispositions including feasts, visiting with Elders and researching genealogy. For youths, dispositions most often imposed are curfews, mandatory school attendance and relationship-building with family and siblings.

The GUAJP also offers victim assistance, and supervision of offenders sentenced to serve their time in the community with conditions.

Meenoostahtan Minisiwin First Nations Family Justice Program (Manitoba)

The Awasis Agency of Northern Manitoba operates the Meenoostahtan Minisiwin program, an alternative model for family justice aimed at resolving child protection concerns (abandonment, neglect and “out of control” children) through a combination of mediation, and traditional peacemaking services and circles. The program serves a community of about 2000 near Thompson.

The program brings family and community together with properly trained Okweskimowews (family mediators) to resolve child welfare issues. Depending on the needs of the case, the RCMP, health services, schools, probation, alcohol and drug programs, court services, magistrates and churches may be involved in the mediation process. If a resolution is reached, the mediator ensures that the conditions of the resolution are met and that harmony is restored. If a resolution cannot be reached, the case may be referred to outside support services, or to the formal court system.

Elsipogtog Restorative Justice Program (New Brunswick)

Big Cove/Elsipogtog is the most populous reserve in New Brunswick. It has an exceptionally high crime rate (especially violent crime) and very serious mental health issues, including high suicide/attempt suicide rates, among its population of 2500. The Elsipogtog Band Council operates a diversion and community sentencing program for youths and adults in conflict with the criminal law. The program engages offenders, victims, Elders and other community members in pre-charge healing circles, and in post-conviction sentencing circles. The program is delivered by a Community Justice Committee, its 15 members drawn from the community (Elders, youth and women) and from a full range of community services and programs.

In 2004-05, with AJS funding, the Elispogtog Band Council added a Victims’ Assistance Program to its community-based justice programs. Victims’ Assistance provides support and pre-trial preparation services to victims and their families. It also works to raise awareness about and support for the needs of victims in the broader community.

Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto (ALST) Community Council Project (Ontario)

ALST’s Community Council Project (CCP) is an urban post-charge diversion program that serves an Aboriginal population of about 60,000 in Toronto. Aboriginal adults and youths charged under the Criminal Code[36] or the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act[37] who admit to having committed the offence charged and who consent to participation in the CCP are diverted from the formal court system to an Aboriginal Community Council for disposition. Charges are stayed or withdrawn. The selection of candidates is made by court workers based on a eligibility protocol developed by the Crown.

To arrive at a disposition in a diverted case, a Community Council (a four-member panel of Aboriginal volunteers) conducts a hearing during which the offender and the Council engage in a restorative discussion of the offence, the harm caused, and the responsibility of the offender. Dispositions arising out of hearings, formalized in Council agreements, are many, including apologies, restitution, referrals to Aboriginal agencies, counselling, employment and education. The CPP is responsible for providing the support the client needs to meet the conditions of the Council agreement, and for monitoring compliance and completion.

At current resource levels, ALST’s CCP manages about 100 diversions a year.

Haines Junction Community Justice Program (Yukon)

The Champagne and Aishihik First Nations operate diversion and community sentencing programs for the residents of the Village of Haines Junction in southwestern Yukon. The village has a population of 770; the broader community includes 1140 registered First Nations members. A 6-member justice committee operates talking, healing and sentencing circles: talking circles attempt to resolve disputes before they escalate into serious conflicts or criminal offences; healing circles address the harms caused by a crime that has been committed; sentencing circles facilitate community participation in the development of sentencing recommendations to the court after an offender has been convicted. The aim of the program is to prevent crime, to address its harms restoratively when it occurs, and to encourage the community to play an active role in justice administration.

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