Aboriginal Justice Strategy
In April 1996, the Minister of Justice announced the AJS as part of the federal government’s response to the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, and to other Aboriginal justice inquiries across the country that had concluded that Canada’s justice system was failing Aboriginal people. Aboriginal people have long experienced disproportionately high rates of arrest, conviction and incarceration relative to their representation in the population. That disproportionate contact with the justice system has been attributed to a multitude of complex and interconnected factors including disadvantaged socio-economic conditions, culturally insensitive approaches to justice, and systemic racism.
The AJS focuses on increasing opportunities for, and building the capacity of, Aboriginal communities to participate meaningfully in the administration of justice. It is expected that increased involvement and strengthened capacity will contribute to the development of more appropriate responses to justice issues faced by Aboriginal people and, over time, will help reduce the percentage of Aboriginal people coming in contact with the justice system. Moreover, as more Aboriginal people engage in the administration of justice, a better understanding of Aboriginal values, needs and aspirations will evolve, contributing to the conditions necessary for sustainable change within the mainstream justice system.
The AJS was developed in cooperation with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), the Privy Council Office (PCO), and the former Office of the Solicitor General (now Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada - PSEPC) including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The AJS is managed by the Aboriginal Justice Directorate (AJD) within the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The objectives of the AJS are:
- to help Aboriginal people assume greater responsibility for the administration of justice in their communities;
- to reflect and include Aboriginal values within the Canadian justice system; and
- over the long-term, together with other justice programs, to contribute to a reduction in rates of crime, victimization and incarceration among Aboriginal people in communities operating AJS programs.
During the 2005-06 reporting period, the AJD pursued the goals of the AJS through five component activities:
- Policy Development and Support
- Community-based Justice Program Funding
- Training and Development (T&D) Fund
- Self-Government Capacity-Building Fund, and
- Outreach and Partnership
Policy Development and Support promotes and supports Aboriginal community justice as a key policy issue in Canada through strategic partnerships at the departmental, interdepartmental and intergovernmental levels; provides multi-disciplinary advice on Aboriginal justice issues to the DOJ and to other federal departments; and provides advice and input to self-government negotiators on the “administration of justice” component of self-government negotiations and agreements.
Community-based Justice Program Funding supports the development and delivery by Aboriginal communities of culturally relevant community-based justice programs through cost-sharing agreements with provincial and territorial governments. Programs that offer diversion/alternative measures, community sentencing, mediation in non-criminal disputes, and other alternative justice initiatives aimed at building closer relationships between community justice and the mainstream system are eligible for funding. Community-based justice programs give Aboriginal people a significant role in resolving civil and criminal matters in their own communities.
The Training and Development (T&D) Fund focuses on providing sustainable training to justice stakeholders, as well as community capacity building and program development for the community-based justice programs. The fund has supported training activities tailored to program needs, attendance at seminars and conferences, and strategy planning sessions.
The Self-Government Capacity Building Fund is administered by the AJD in consultation with INAC. The fund supports the development of pilot projects and resource material designed to build self-government capacity within Aboriginal communities. Projects include the development of communication tools and the delivery of training on the administration, adjudication and enforcement of local laws.
The objectives of Outreach and Partnership are to promote the AJS to Aboriginal communities, foster information-sharing among practitioners about alternative justice processes consistent with Aboriginal values and traditions, identify and disseminate best practices and creative solutions to Aboriginal justice issues, promote justice career options to Aboriginal people, and solicit and foster partnerships that advance the objectives of the AJS.
The AJD has an organizational structure that reflects the wide variety of activities in which it engages. The AJD is comprised of policy advisors, program analysts, communications/liaison officers, legal counsel, regional coordinators and support staff. Most staff members are centralized at DOJ offices in Ottawa; some Regional Coordinators and their support staff are in other locations throughout the country, closer to the Aboriginal communities and community-based justice programs they support.
The AJD shares salary and operating expenses with PSEPC to deliver both the AJS and the National Crime Prevention Strategy (NCPS) in the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Alberta. The AJD also has service agreements with the Evaluation Division of DOJ to conduct formal evaluations of the AJS.
In 2005-06, the AJD’s budget was approximately $9.9 million, of which $7.4 million was Grants and Contributions.
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