Aboriginal Justice Strategy Mid-Term Evaluation, Final Report

4. Key Findings

The mid-term evaluation of the AJS addressed four issues: relevance, implementation (design and delivery), effectiveness, and adequacy of data for the impact evaluation. Key findings for each of these issues are presented in this section.

4.1. Relevance

Rationale for the Aboriginal Justice Strategy

The AJS was created by the federal government in response to the disproportionate number of Aboriginal persons involved in the criminal justice system, both as victims and offenders. The over-representation of Aboriginal persons remains evident throughout the correctional system, as evidenced by the following statistics[16]:

  • In 2007/08, 22% of Canadian adults admitted to sentenced custody were Aboriginal; meanwhile, fewer than 4% of the Canadian population are Aboriginal.
  • This proportion is higher in the western provinces: for example, 81% of adults admitted to sentenced custody in Saskatchewan were Aboriginal. According to the 2006 Census, Aboriginal persons account for approximately 11% of Saskatchewan's population.
  • The number of Aboriginal persons admitted to sentence custody decreased from 1998/99 to 2007/08, but at a slower rate than non-Aboriginal persons. Therefore, the proportion of Aboriginal persons in sentenced custody has increased since 1998/99.
  • Demographic factors such as age, employment, and education level do not fully account for the over-representation of Aboriginal persons in the correctional system.

The AJS increases the involvement of Aboriginal communities in the local administration of justice, and emphasizes the importance of reflecting Aboriginal values within the justice system. The need for this type of programming is underscored by the continuing over-representation of Aboriginal persons who are victims, offenders, and incarcerated across Canada.

Despite these efforts, the 2005/2006 Annual Report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator observed the ongoing failure of the criminal justice system to meet the Aboriginal population's unique needs, reflecting the "fundamentally different world view" of Aboriginal peoples.[17] As such, it remains an ongoing federal priority to encourage culturally appropriate alternative justice measures within Aboriginal communities, reflected in the renewal and enhancement of the AJS.

4.1.1. Alignment of AJS Objectives with Government Priorities

All Department of Justice staff and most provincial and territorial representatives interviewed agreed that the objectives of the AJS align with the strategic outcome of the Department of Justice to "create a fair, relevant and accessible justice system that reflects Canadian values." [18] The AJS provides an alternative to the mainstream justice system which recognizes the cultural values and unique context of Aboriginal communities.

The objectives of the AJS are also well aligned with federal government priorities. Upon expanding AJS funding in 2008, Minister of Justice Rob Nicholson highlighted the value of the AJS in helping to meet the federal government's priority of protecting Canadian families and communities by strengthening the justice system:

"The Aboriginal Justice Strategy builds on this Government's commitment to reduce and prevent crime, strengthen the justice system and promote safer communities. It is a successful program that helps steer Aboriginal people away from a lifestyle of crime, provides hope and opportunity for Aboriginal youth and helps end cycles of violence."[19]

In terms of federal funding, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat has developed the Aboriginal Horizontal Framework,[20] which groups programs and expenditures directed specifically to Aboriginal people into seven thematic areas. Under the theme "Safe and Sustainable Communities" is a sub-category entitled "Community Safety & Justice," within which the AJS is an associated program. The strategic mandate of this sub-category is to foster "just, peaceful and safe Aboriginal communities", [21] under which the AJS objectives are aligned.

4.1.2. Relevance to Aboriginal Communities

Key informants were unanimous in their opinion that the AJS is still relevant to Aboriginal people and communities, as there is a strong continued need for community-based Aboriginal justice programs. Furthermore, demand for this type of programming still exceeds its availability, particularly as Aboriginal persons remain over-represented in the justice system. All funding recipients emphasized that the AJS is very relevant to Aboriginal communities and that there is a continued need for alternative justice programs that reflect traditional Aboriginal values. About 83% of the police and Crown surveyed also felt that there is a continued need for community-based Aboriginal justice programs in their jurisdictions to some or a great extent.

Many key informants, however, expressed the view that greater access to the AJS is required, describing the need to expand the reach of the AJS. Some suggested that programming could be expanded in order to include Aboriginal persons who live in non-Aboriginal communities. It was often expressed that the programs could consider victimization and healing, particularly as Aboriginal offenders have often been victims themselves, in a holistic approach that most closely mirrors traditional Aboriginal approaches to justice and the restoration of community harmony. However, it should be noted that some AJS-funded programs have already integrated program elements around victimization and healing.

Gladue Principle

Federal priorities regarding the unique context of Aboriginal citizens were highlighted in 1996, when the Criminal Code was amended to better reflect the needs of Aboriginal communities. Section 717 clarified the conditions to be met when employing alternative justice measures, while sub-section 718.2 (e) stated that "all available sanctions other than imprisonment that are reasonable in the circumstances should be considered for all offenders, with particular attention to the circumstances of Aboriginal offenders."[22] The Supreme Court of Canada clarified the proper implementation and application of the sub-section in the 1999 case R. v. Gladue, stating: "the drastic overrepresentation of Aboriginal peoples within both the Canadian prison population and the criminal justice system reveals a sad and pressing social problem…the provision [in sub-section 718.2 (e)] may properly be seen as Parliament's direction to members of the judiciary to inquire into the causes of the problem and to endeavour to remedy it, to the extent that a remedy is possible through the sentencing process." [23]

Some communities now offer alternative justice programs that deliver services designed to respond to R v. Gladue through, for example, writing 'Gladue Reports'. These reports are built around the "Gladue principle" which requires that an Aboriginal offender's situational context be considered before a ruling or sentence is passed down. There are now three Gladue (Aboriginal Persons) courts in Toronto that Aboriginal offenders [24] can be referred to from the mainstream system. Communities that have adopted a Gladue-centred approach are able to receive AJS funding for services to support the Gladue approach. In 2008/09, four Gladue support programs in Ontario used the AJS funding for this purpose.

4.2. Design and Delivery (Implementation)

Key findings related to the design and delivery of the AJS are presented below.

4.2.1. Implementation of the Capacity Building Fund

During the 2002-2007 AJS mandate, funding was available to support training and development activities. Results of the 2007 AJS Summative Evaluation revealed that the vast majority of these activities took place in communities already receiving Community-based Justice Program funding. The Department of Justice committed to providing communities, particularly those interested in implementing a new Community-based Justice Program, the opportunity to seek funding for training and development initiatives tailored to the needs of their communities. The Capacity Building Fund was developed in response to this commitment, and in the 2008/09 fiscal year, seven communities that did not have a Community-based Justice Program in place received Capacity Building Fund funding.

In the first two years after the renewal, the amount of funding allocated to the Capacity Building Fund was determined after the commitment of funds to the Community-based Justice Programs. Therefore, the call for Capacity Building Fund proposals did not take place until late in the year. Since the funds had to be spent by the end of the same fiscal year, turnaround time from application to completion of the project was very short in 2007/08 and 2008/09. Many funding recipients noted that the uncertainty around the timing and availability of funds due to a lack of dedicated funding separate from the Community-based Justice Program component made it difficult to adequately implement projects. AJD staff and provincial and territorial representatives noted that the uncertainty made it difficult to promote the fund for fear of creating expectations that cannot be met. Many respondents suggested that allocating a specified amount to the Capacity Building Fund, in addition to allowing Capacity Building Fund funding to be carried over to the following fiscal year, would improve the component substantially.

4.2.2. Selection Criteria: Community-based Justice Programs

As a follow-up to the recommendations from the 2007 Summative Evaluation, preliminary discussions with provincial and territorial partners were held regarding the revision of the Community-based Justice Program Funding Guide and the development of selection criteria for new Community-based Justice Programs. Although efforts to collaborate were made between the AJD and the provincial/territorial partners in the development of the new Community-based Justice Program criteria, they were limited due to the diversity of regional needs and priorities. Consensus on specific criteria could not be reached due to conflicting regional requirements; therefore, the AJD developed a set of universal criteria. Despite these difficulties, the majority of the provincial and territorial representatives interviewed were satisfied with the degree of collaboration in developing these criteria, given the challenge of addressing regional differences.

The majority of key informants considered the selection criteria and process for Community-based Justice Programs to be fair and flexible, reflecting the needs of the communities and the provinces/territories. In 2008/09, eligibility criteria and guidelines for applying for Community-based Justice Programs funds were available on-line to assist new organizations or communities wishing to apply.

Overall, the provincial and territorial partners felt that their objectives and those of the AJS are well aligned in terms of the criteria for selecting Community-based Justice Programs, and that they would not want the process to change significantly. Furthermore, the provincial and territorial partners agreed that the framework supports the selection of communities that are ready for the program and prepared to take more of a leadership role. It was noted by many key informants that the AJD is relatively hands-off after the selection process is complete, which enables programs to respond to the needs of the communities served. AJD staff felt that this hands-off approach is a positive feature of the program as it allows Aboriginal communities to assume greater responsibility in the administration of justice.

4.2.3. Selection Criteria: Capacity Building Fund

In contrast to the Community-based Justice Program component, the assessment and selection process for Capacity Building Fund applications was in the planning stage during the 2007/08 and 2008/09 fiscal years, and was not described in great detail in any of the materials accessible on-line. An application/proposal form has been developed for the Capacity Building Fund, although it does not contain the level of detail found in the Community-based Justice Program Funding Guide. Unlike the Community-based Justice Program component, the Capacity Building Fund may or may not be cost-shared; as such, communication about the Capacity Building Fund was conducted at the national level and consequently shared with the provinces and territories as opposed to being developed in collaboration with them. During the early implementation of the Capacity Building Fund, communication to AJS communities was informal, occurring mainly through the Regional Coordinators or provincial/territorial partners.

Funding recipients expressed a much higher degree of uncertainty with the review and selection process for Capacity Building Fund projects as compared to Community-based Justice Programs. AJD staff and provincial and territorial partners expressed concern over the perceived fairness of the Capacity Building Fund selection process due to the lack of explicit selection criteria and transparency; this, they indicated, creates the potential for non-transparent selection. It was noted that the provision of clear and consistent information across the various information sources ideally contributes to transparency and fairness of the process.

4.2.4. Staffing Challenges

For the first two years after renewal, the AJD faced high rates of staff turnover. There was complete turnover of Regional Coordinators between April 2007 and June 2008. Since Regional Coordinators are critical to maintaining solid relationships with the provinces and territories, program analysts and other staff acted in the role of Regional Coordinator when necessary. The Director of the AJD left the position in June 2008, with the position being permanently staffed again in December 2008 (the position was staffed on an acting basis in the interim). Although executive administrative support was stable throughout the period, there was a high rate of turnover in administrative support staff for analysts.

The lack of stability in AJD human resources made it difficult for AJS partners and funding recipients to communicate and collaborate with the AJD, and it created barriers in terms of accessing information and general program development. The resulting lack of corporate memory among new AJD staff was noted by key informants from all groups as having been a serious issue that caused disruptions in service delivery.

The relationships between the funding recipients and regional AJD staff vary, depending in part on the location of the Regional Coordinator. Funding recipients in provinces and territories where the Regional Coordinators are located elsewhere indicated that they have infrequent contact, particularly in person, with the coordinators. However, many of the funding recipients consider their Regional Coordinators to be very responsive in the event they have had to contact them. Infrequent in-person contact could be a function of both caseload and budget. Current fiscal constraint, in particular in the area of travel, has made monitoring of and support for implementation of the contribution agreements more challenging.

As summarized in Table 4 below, the 2007/08 budget allocation for salaries, $1.97 million, was increased to $2.68 million in 2008/09. Expenditures on salaries increased from 2007/08 to 2008/09; 19% of the total budget allocation in 2008/09 was not spent.

O&M allocations were not fully spent during the first two years of the renewal, as indicated in Table 4 below. This was also due to high staff turnover, as there was relatively less spending on materials, training and travel.

Table 4: AJD Salary and O&M Budget Allocations and Expenditures (2007/08 and 2008/09)
  2007/08 2008/09
Budget Component Total
Expenditures Difference Total
Expenditures Difference
Salary 1,973,602 2,018,615 (45,013) 2,677,460 2,174,446 503,014
O&M 1,016,892 583,256 433,636 1,380,703 956,812 423,891

Source: Department of Justice, February 2010

4.2.5. Roles and Responsibilities

Most key informants felt that the roles and responsibilities of the funding recipients are clearly defined at the community level, in part due to the specific language of the program contribution agreement. The responsibilities of the funding recipients to the Department of Justice are contained in Schedule C of the contribution agreement, which outlines financial, activity and statistical reporting requirements.

Terms of Reference are in place for the AJS F/P/T working group, which clearly state the group's mandate and activities. These Terms of Reference do not explicitly distinguish the roles and responsibilities of AJD staff and the provincial and territorial partners. AJD and provincial and territorial representatives expressed dissatisfaction with the clarity of their roles and responsibilities as they relate to the AJS F/P/T working group. Some AJD staff noted that standardized descriptions of roles across the regions would be beneficial.

4.2.6. Role of the Aboriginal Law and Strategic Policy Group

The ALSP Group supported the Strategy through a number of activities in 2007/08 and 2008/09, including:[25]

  • providing strategic advice and communication on high level issues with regard to AJS strategic legal and legal policy material for the Assistant Deputy Attorney General, Aboriginal Affairs Portfolio, the Deputy Minister and the Minister of Justice;
  • assisting with the renewal of the AJS in 2007 by providing strategic policy direction, writing the Memorandum to Cabinet, conducting interdepartmental consultations and consultations with Aboriginal organizations and other stakeholders; and,
  • maintaining and developing linkages to promote greater horizontality across federal programs, such as: homelessness programs, alcohol and drug treatment programs, employment programs, healing programs, Gladue Courts for Aboriginal offenders, Drug Treatment Courts, other specialized court initiatives, Aboriginal policing programs in the Department of Public Safety and the RCMP, crime prevention programs, and correctional programs such as the Native Liaison Services program.

ALSP noted that the AJD is able to dedicate more resources and energy to ongoing priority areas and activities of the AJS as a result of this division of responsibilities.

The role of the ALSP is clear to most AJD staff, but many, especially the Regional Coordinators, feel disconnected from the policy-making process and decisions. ALSP assists with the renewal of the Strategy and meets with F/P/T representatives to discuss 'big policy' issues pertaining to Aboriginal justice in general. The majority of AJD representatives, particularly regional staff, stated that they have only limited involvement with ALSP, with access occurring mainly at the senior management level through informal, ongoing communication. It was generally felt that many policy decisions are made by ALSP in isolation from AJD program analysts and regional staff. Many Department of Justice staff felt that the relationship between ALSP and the AJD could be more inclusive in terms of addressing and reporting on policy issues.

4.2.7. Federal/Provincial/Territorial Relations

As Community-based Justice Programs are cost-shared through either dual or in-kind arrangements between the provinces, territories and the federal government, decisions with respect to selecting new programs are achieved through a joint process involving the Department of Justice's provincial, territorial and community-based partners. Attempts are made to use collaborative processes between the Department and its provincial/territorial partners and funding recipients wherever possible, as appropriate.

The AJD maintained regular electronic and face-to-face communication with its provincial and territorial partners. The AJS F/P/T working group was the formal vehicle through which collaboration occurred, consisting of representatives from the Department of Justice and the provinces and territories. In the first two years after the renewal of the Strategy in 2007, there were four formal meetings either in-person or via teleconference. Communication also occurred on a one-on-one basis between Regional Coordinators, AJD management and provincial and territorial counterparts.

An assessment committee consisting of representatives from the AJD and their provincial/ territorial counterparts completes the review and assessment of Community-based Justice Program funding proposals for new programs, through a joint process on a case-by-case basis, in an effort to address the diversity of community needs. Recommendations for funding are made by the assessment committee. In addition, less formal ongoing communication and coordination takes place between the provincial and territorial partners and the Regional Coordinators. Regional Coordinators also strive to develop relationships with the communities and funding recipients in their jurisdictions.

All interview groups identified information sharing and communication as a key area for improvement. Funding recipients indicated that although their Regional Coordinators are a helpful point of contact, many do not have enough 'on the ground' time with the individual communities. This group also expressed that they have little to no direct contact with the AJD staff in Ottawa, and would benefit from increased and regular contact with national representatives to ensure that their experiences, opinions and challenges are being addressed within the Strategy's overall framework. 

Similarly, Regional Coordinators expressed that while the level of information sharing and communication within their region's communities was relatively strong, the level of communication with the AJD and regional offices could be improved. 

Provincial/territorial partners suggested that a greater amount of communication and collaboration is required between the province/territory, the AJD and the community justice programs.

In general, all interview groups indicated that they would benefit from a more formalized communication strategy. Both funding recipients and provincial/territorial partners suggested that communication between communities should be encouraged and formalized, if possible. Some communities are already coming together on their own to share best practices, advice and experiences, and many felt that this was an important process that could be formally mandated at the federal level.

Despite the importance of outreach and information-sharing to the success of Community-based Justice Programs, limited human resources at the program level can make it difficult to conduct outreach activities. However, it was noted that once programs become well established and supported, the need for outreach somewhat declines. Therefore, newer programs may require additional support and capacity-building initiatives related to outreach and information sharing while more established Community-based Justice Programs do not.

Increasing awareness of and participation in AJS programming by police, provincial judges, probation officers and Crown representatives is also essential. These representatives act as the gatekeepers between the mainstream justice system and Community-based Justice programs by referring potential participants to the programs. Raising awareness of operational programs and strengthening relationships with key stakeholders in the mainstream justice system is integral to the successful implementation of a Community-based Justice Program. As such, a dedicated approach to building awareness is an important area that requires the involvement of AJD national and regional staff and community leaders. This could help establish relationships with and encourage the participation of those who direct the referral process.

4.2.8. Horizontal Relationships

The AJD has a number of federal partners, namely:

  • Correctional Service Canada, Aboriginal Initiative Branch;
  • Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Urban Aboriginal Strategy;
  • other justice programs at the Department of Justice Canada;
  • Health Canada and other federal departments that have Aboriginal areas of focus;
  • Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada, Aboriginal Policing Directorate and the National Crime Prevention Strategy; and,
  • the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Aboriginal Policing.

The AJD also has an ongoing collaborative relationship with the Department of Justice ACW Program, which assists Aboriginal people within the court system to obtain fair, just, equitable and culturally sensitive treatment.[26] ACW representatives indicated that they have a good working relationship with the AJD, particularly at the policy/headquarters level, and that the ACW acts as a referral agency on the ground.

4.3. Effectiveness

This section presents the key findings with respect to the effectiveness of the AJS in meeting some of its short-term objectives.

4.3.1. Support for AJS Objectives

In general, the activities listed in the Community-based Justice Program and Capacity Building Fund program work plans align with the types of activities that can be funded according to AJS criteria. Community-based Justice Program activities listed in these plans also align with the four objectives of the AJS. The two objectives that were supported by the greatest number of Community-based Justice Program activities were:

  • reflecting and including relevant Aboriginal cultural values in Canadian justice administration (46% of activities, as described in program work plans); and,
  • contributing to decreasing rates of crime and victimization in Aboriginal communities operating AJS programs (24% of activities, as described in program work plans).[27]

The objective supported by the least number of stated activities was: assisting Aboriginal communities to provide better and timelier information about community justice programs funded by the AJS (14% of activities, as described in program work plans). Table 5 below illustrates the alignment between AJS objectives and stated Community-based Justice Program and project activities.

Table 5: AJS Objectives and Planned Activities of Community-based Justice Program Funding Recipients
  AJS Objective Stated Activities Distribution (across 104 Community-based Justice Programs)1
1. To contribute to a decrease in the rate of victimization, crime and incarceration among Aboriginal people in communities operating AJS programs
  • Client support and after care
  • Healing circles
  • Peacemaking circles
  • Family group conferencing
  • Mediation
  • Conflict resolution
  • Victim support programming
  • 24% of activities fall within this objective
  • 34% of Community-based Justice Programs offered client support and aftercare, and 31% held healing circles
2. To assist Aboriginal people to assume greater responsibility for the administration of justice in their communities
  • Attending workshops, conferences, etc.
  • Ongoing training related to existing Community-based Justice Programs (skills updating)
  • Training for communities without Community-based Justice Programs
  • 17% of activities fall within this objective
  • 63% of Community-based Justice Programs offered ongoing training related to existing Community-based Justice Programs
  • 26% of Community-based Justice Programs attended workshops, conferences, etc.
3. To provide better and more timely information about community justice programs funded by the AJS
  • Community awareness/outreach
  • Improve reporting/evaluation capacity (existing Community-based Justice Programs)
  • 14% of activities fall within this objective
  • 74% of Community-based Justice Programs included community awareness/outreach activities
4. To reflect and include relevant Aboriginal values within the justice system
  • Developing/establishing partnerships for program development
  • Justice committees/panels
  • Victim advocacy
  • Court/community justice programming
  • Restorative justice programming
  • Offender programming
  • Elders councils/Elder involvement
  • Special events/ceremonies
  • Cultural programming
  • Sentencing circles
  • 46% of activities fall within this objective
  • 80% of Community-based Justice Programs worked on developing/ establishing partnerships for program development
  • 28% of Community-based Justice Programs included court/community justice programming, 38% included offender programming, and 26% included cultural programming

1 Based on a total of 603 activities (excluding administrative activities and activities other than the ones listed).
Source: Project File Review; Contribution Agreements

Capacity Building Fund projects supported existing or new Community-based Justice Programs through implementing the following activities:

  • organizing forums, conferences, and networking;
  • delivering or arranging for workshops for staff and/or partners;
  • undertaking program expansion activities;
  • organizing and implementing skills-building activities for community members (particularly youth); and,
  • delivering or arranging for training related to program delivery (e.g., circle keeper training) that was not covered through the Community-based Justice Program.

Results from the key informant interviews suggest that the activities undertaken by the programs and projects are perceived as supporting most of the AJS objectives. Funding recipients emphasized that reducing Aboriginal crime and victimization is the objective that they strive towards; by engaging the community and working with other departments and organizations, crime reduction is supported through a holistic effort grounded in culturally relevant approaches. Capacity to deal with offenders is built within the communities and a greater culture of awareness is fostered, particularly with youth.

Some funding recipients and AJD staff suggested that programming focus could be expanded beyond intervention, concentrating more on prevention and victimization and emphasizing the root causes of elevated crime rates. Some programs already have elements in place that support prevention and victim services.

All key informant groups agreed that Community-based Justice Programs assist Aboriginal communities in taking greater responsibility for the administration of justice and indirectly impact justice and criminality. Furthermore, the program gives Aboriginal leaders a real role in justice programming. Funding recipients indicated that the direct involvement of community members in the justice process, particularly Elders, allows for greater community-based autonomy. This can also lead to a greater general awareness of the criminal justice system in participating communities.

Many respondents expressed confusion as to the overall aim of the objective "to assist Aboriginal communities to provide better and timelier information about community justice programs funded by the AJS". It was unclear to most funding recipients how Community-based Justice Program activities assist Aboriginal communities to provide better and more timely information about community-based justice programs.

4.3.2. Cultural Programming

Funding recipients emphasized that including Aboriginal cultural values in the administration of justice is the objective around which programs revolve. In particular, it was often noted that the multi-generational approach and involvement of Elders ensured that Aboriginal cultural heritage and tradition were focal points of alternative justice programming. For example, Elders, community members and program staff facilitated the following types of cultural programming and special ceremonies:

  • community events/festivals with games (stick gambling, hand games, field games), traditional activities (berry harvesting, story telling, traditional food processing) and social activities (community dinners and pot lucks, shows);
  • ceremonies (signing, tree planting, sacred fires, sweat lodges);
  • youth camps (teaching of spiritual beliefs, berries, leaves and their healing components, traditional foods);
  • workshops (cutting and drying meat, making eagle feather snares, making drums, harvesting and outdoor cooking); and,
  • outdoor activities (hunting, fishing, outdoor cooking, canoeing, camping, horseback riding).

Aboriginal cultural values are being included in the programs due to the fact that the communities themselves play a primary role in program design. AJD staff felt that since the community-based Aboriginal justice programs make use of traditional cultural values such as holism and healing, Aboriginal communities are empowered to reclaim the justice process and build capacity within the community.

Some funding recipients stated that "putting a face" on crime and creating an environment of responsibility and accountability helps to contribute to decreasing crime and victimization rates within their communities.

Several funding recipients interviewed provided qualitative examples illustrating how the programs led to reduced recidivism in individuals and youth. Almost all AJD and many provincial and territorial representatives noted, however, that it is difficult to measure this objective empirically. As reported in the 2007 AJS Summative Evaluation, there is evidence to suggest that rates of recidivism are lower for offenders who participate in a Community-based Justice Program than for those who are referred but do not participate[28]; within eight years, 59% of participants who were referred but did not participate in a Community-based Justice Program reoffended; whereas 32% of participants involved in alternative programming funded by the AJS reoffended. Although this empirical data supports the anecdotal accounts of funding recipients, results must be interpreted with caution due to methodological limitations.

4.3.3. Community Access to AJS Programs

AJS-funded programs and projects are reaching a large number of communities. Overall, more than 400 communities are served by 104 AJS programs, according to AJS documentation.[29] Based on reports submitted by the programs, 7,532 Aboriginal people were served by AJS-funded programs in 2007/08 and 5,634 in 2008/09, for a total of 13,166. As not all communities reported how many people were referred and participated in their program, this total is considered an underestimate.

Based on the results from funding recipient interviews and the survey of police and Crown representatives, those referred to programs were most often first-time offenders, frequently youth accused of minor infractions such as vandalism, minor property crimes, shoplifting, mischief, or minor alcohol/drug offences. Some funding recipients and police indicated that the person must also show remorse or willingness to take responsibility for his or her actions.

In general, programs seem to be meeting the needs of participants in that most groups reported lower levels of recidivism within communities and a greater degree of cultural sensitivity in the justice process.

4.3.4. Access Challenges

Several gaps were identified concerning the extent to which AJS programs are reaching Aboriginal offenders and victims of crime. A number of communities with the capacity and inclination to introduce a program are often not able to implement one, as there is not enough funding available.

Rural communities may lack services related to Aboriginal justice due, in part, to limited capacity to implement a program or to a lack of awareness of the Strategy.

4.3.5. Awareness of Programming in Aboriginal Communities

Funding recipients strongly felt that Community-based Justice Programs provide opportunities to strengthen linkages and partnerships both within the community and outside of it. Most noted that they actively network with other communities and related organizations, hold events such as celebration dinners, host information sessions, publish articles in community newspapers, and frequently offer education and public awareness initiatives.

4.3.6. Awareness of Programming in Justice Communities

Involvement of mainstream justice professionals helps foster a coordinated effort to prevention, education and awareness, which many respondents described as the ideal approach to alternative justice programming. Understanding and sensitivity on the part of non-Aboriginal justice officials is considered an integral part of successful alternative justice programming. Communicating with professionals in the mainstream justice system was also noted as important for gaining the level of support necessary to reach Aboriginal offenders.

Survey results showed that all Crown respondents were aware of one or more programs operating in their region. In the same survey, 25.7% of police respondents working in regions where Community-based Justice Programs are offered were not aware of any programs; this could be a function of high mobility within police forces.

Survey results suggest limited direct participation beyond referrals between mainstream justice professionals and Aboriginal community-based justice programs. Some 34.8% of the police and Crown respondents indicated that they have participated in the Aboriginal justice programs offered in their communities.

A significant gap in program reach, according to many funding recipients, comes from a lack of awareness of or participation in AJS programs on the part of mainstream justice professionals. Since programs are referral-based, if external stakeholders are not familiar with or are unsupportive of the programs, they will not refer offenders to them. Awareness and ongoing outreach to other criminal justice stakeholders are key factors to individual program success, as referrals from the mainstream justice system require involvement of local justice professionals.

4.4. Economy and Efficiency

4.4.1. Funding

Despite the fact that key informants generally felt that there are insufficient funds to meet community needs, particularly for the Capacity Building Fund, the amounts expended in the first two years of the expansion were less than the committed and allocated amounts.

According to AJD staff and provincial/territorial representatives, the main barrier to implementing the AJS enhancements has been the overall lack of funds to adequately meet demand. However, the amounts committed to Community-based Justice Programs and Capacity Building Funds were less than the amount allocated in 2007/08 ($10.49 million), and the disbursements were less than the amounts committed during both fiscal years indicated. As evident in Table 6, Community-based Justice Program and Capacity Building Fund disbursements were $2.98 million and $2.58 million below the total allocated amount in 2007/08 and 2008/09, respectively.

Table 6: Grant and Contributions Commitments and Disbursements
(as of January 26, 2010)

  2007/08 2008/09
Allocated Amount - Contributions $10,490,000 $10,490,000
Fund Component Commitments Disbursements Commitments Disbursements
Total Community-based Justice Program $8,766,826 $6,811,297 $10,867,344 $7,391,993
Total Capacity Building Fund $792,179 $700,035 $889,287 $519,535
Balance Not Committed $930,995 $1,266,631
Balance Not Disbursed $2,978,668 $2,578,472

  2007/08 2008/09
Allocated Amount - Grants $260,000 $260,000
Fund Component Commitments Disbursements Commitments Disbursements
Total Grants $86,796 $86,796 $13,105 $13,105
Balance Not Committed $173,204 $246,895
Balance Not Disbursed $0 $0

Source: Aboriginal Justice Directorate; January 26, 2010

In addition to the funds allocated to the Community-based Justice Programs and Capacity Building Fund, $260,000 in grants was available each year for one-time, small-scale capacity or training-related needs of funding recipients for up to $20,000 per project. The information in Table 6 above shows that only 33% ($86,796) and 5% ($13,105) of the grant allocation was committed and disbursed in 2007/08 and 2008/09 respectively. This could be due to the need to reallocate some of the grant amount to cover planned commitments in the programs included in contributions funding.

Most funding recipients and Regional Coordinators were unclear about the grant portion of the AJS; many thought that grant allocations had been replaced by the Capacity Building Fund.

4.4.2. Funding Challenges

A key factor that interfered with implementing the AJS enhancement in the first year after renewal was that funding to the programs had to be disbursed retroactively. Although the 2007 Budget announced an initial enhanced funding investment over 2007/08 and 2008/09, there were a number of implementation challenges related to the renewal of the program. During this period, Community-based Justice Program communities had to shoulder the costs until the funds were released and Capacity Building Fund projects had little time to complete the activities and expend the funds planned for that fiscal year.

In 2008/09, the second year of the renewal, actual spending was lower than anticipated for the following reasons:

  • finalizing funding agreements was delayed due to ongoing complex negotiations with communities and provincial/territorial partners with tripartite or flow-through agreements;
  • allocation of capacity-building funds was delayed, thereby affecting the ability of funding recipients to complete activities in the same fiscal year;
  • staffing issues at AJD caused delays in negotiating agreements; and,
  • some funding recipients faced capacity and training needs, which left them unable to undertake the full extent of proposed community-based initiatives expected.

Payments throughout the duration of the contribution agreements are tied to reporting outputs submitted by the program. If certain reporting requirements are not met or not all activities are completed, then not all of the allocated funding is released. Some funding recipients do not meet the final reporting requirements (final report and financial statements) that are tied to release of 10% of the total committed amount. Following submission of these reports, a desk audit is conducted at the Department of Justice to review and confirm the figures.

Uncertainty about the timing and availability of Capacity Building Funds led to suggestions by many respondents that a dedicated Capacity Building Fund funding allotment would allow such funds to be carried over fiscal years in order to adequately implement programs and projects as planned. Capacity Building Fund recipients were often unsure whether they would receive funding until the time of, or after, the planned activity.

In addition, these uncertainties have made it difficult for funding recipients to adequately implement programs and projects. This has resulted in cash flow difficulties for some smaller programs serving small communities. It also contributed to staffing challenges in some programs, particularly in rural, remote locations.

Funding recipients did note that once the funding was made available, the amount of time it took to receive the funds was short. As well, multi-year Community-based Justice Program contribution agreements are now being negotiated in an effort to support consistency and reliability of service.

4.4.3. Cost Effectiveness

A cost-effectiveness analysis conducted for the 2007 AJS Summative Evaluation demonstrated that the AJS is a more cost-effective approach than the mainstream justice system for offenders participating in community-based programs. This analysis showed that, while the cost per unit for an AJS referral is higher than the cost per charge in the mainstream justice system, the lower recidivism rate among AJS participants results in savings to the justice system over time. Additionally, many AJS programs provide services in remote locations, in which the cost of participation in the mainstream justice system is higher than in the AJS program.

Although this issue was not explored in detail for the purposes of this report, it will be addressed in detail in the next summative evaluation of the AJS.

4.5. Adequacy of Data for an Impact Evaluation

As previously noted, an impact evaluation of the Strategy is planned for 2011/12. This section of the report examines the degree to which processes are in place to support the impact evaluation.

4.5.1. Reporting Sources

At the time of the evaluation, the AJS did not have a standardized reporting database. To address this issue, a working group[30] was established to develop a set of national data requirements and a data collection system for the Strategy. As of fall 2009, the working group has established the objectives and guiding principles of the National Data Requirements project and a draft data model had been designed. The draft model consists of four data tables designed to collect details related to the program, the accused/offender and the activities completed by each offender (e.g., restitution, donation, formal apology, cultural education, counselling, etc.). A review of the draft model shows that all performance indicators identified by the AJD will be covered, although data regarding the communities' capacity to deliver the program (e.g., staffing resources, training) are not included.

Data is also stored in the federal government's Grants and Contributions Information Management System. This system was not reviewed as part of the mid-term evaluation; however, the system has challenges as staff training with the system was low.

Given that limited data will be available from electronic systems, community-based justice and Capacity Building Fund program data required for the impact evaluation will have to be accessed from existing reports submitted by funding recipients unless other methods of tracking are implemented prior to 2011/12.

4.5.2. Reporting Capacity

Interview results indicate that the capacity of communities to implement and conduct data collection, reporting and evaluation varies widely. Programs implemented by large, well-established organizations have the capacity to meet reporting and evaluation requirements, while smaller communities, particularly those located in remote areas, face challenges due to limited staffing resources. The project file review revealed that none of the Community-based Justice Program or Capacity Building Fund funded communities had implemented training to improve their capacity for reporting.

Voluntary evaluation and reporting of internal processes were not widely observed within Community-based Justice Program activities; while 11 of the work plans identified evaluation as one of their Capacity Building Fund funded program activities, only two final reports indicated that the evaluations had been completed (e.g., satisfaction surveys, formal follow-up).

Many Community-based Justice Program files did not include a final report, and Capacity Building Fund project files rarely contained one, indicating that final payments were temporarily or permanently held back depending on whether the reports were delayed or not submitted at all.

4.5.3. Consistency of Data

In general, reporting was inconsistent within and across Community-based Justice Programs and Capacity Building Fund projects. This could affect the data for the impact evaluation. There were often discrepancies between the activities cited in the work plan and those included in quarterly or final reports. In some cases, the reports identified activities that were not part of the original work plan. Quarterly and final reports tended to be more detailed and precise than the work plans.

In addition, the reporting approach varied according to the size and structure of the recipient organization. Larger multiple-community projects typically reported on administrative activities, providing only overviews for each Aboriginal community's activities, while single-community projects tended to focus on specific activities.

As overall program awareness from the police survey was somewhat low, a more comprehensive survey and/or telephone interviews with a larger sample size should be conducted to obtain more representative information and explore the awareness issue further. The impact evaluation could also be expanded to include consultation with additional mainstream justice professionals to gain a better understanding of the impact of AJS communities on the justice system overall. These supplementary consultations could include police, members of the judiciary and Crown in the communities served by Community-based Justice Programs, as well as adjacent communities.

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