Welcome to our second NGO Justice Summit newsletter. It has been two years since the Alberta Summit on Justice, and six months since our first newsletter in August 2000. We apologize for the delay in producing the second update. The delay was due to staff turnover combined with the need to take extra time to plan initiatives that will involve NGOs in a meaningful way. In this issue:
It is an exciting time to
be involved in the Justice field. Tremendous changes have taken place since the
Summit in 1999, and the changes are creating further changes in a domino
effect. We think that there is great potential for development and
co-ordination work in the area of crime prevention. The question is whether
NGOs are interested, motivated and willing to grab the opportunities that await
|What Does PLE Mean To You?|
PLE stands for Public Legal Education and were betting that your agency offers some form of PLE to your clients.
You may recall that one of the areas of concern during the Justice Summit was the availability of public legal education in Alberta. Participants were very eager to see that this area of justice service was expanded.
There were three main PLE themes identified during the Summit:
The Justice Summit theme of improving knowledge, education and awareness is one of the priorities of Alberta Justice. The Department launched its web site in 1999. Since then, Alberta Justice has been working to develop partnerships with outside interested parties.
As part of their partnership strategy, Alberta Justice has appointed an Education Coordinator, Karen Machura, who is working hard at collecting information on who is doing what in terms of PLE. The Education Coordinators role is defined as helping to improve Albertans knowledge and understanding of the Alberta justice system. The goals of the Education Coordinator project are to:
Alberta Justice sees a diversity of potential partners in its PLE project, such as: public legal education organizations, non-government organizations, legal professionals, First Nations, Metis, post secondary institutions, media and others.
As part of the process of connecting with partners, the education coordinator is compiling a database of PLE information which lists PLE providers, the type of product or service that they provide and the topic areas they cover. Right now the database is a list of what is provided by traditional PLE agencies and sectors. It has yet to include the multitude of non-traditional work that we know is being done out there, possibly by your organization.
We believe that many NGOs are providing PLE within their work, such as brochures on custody and access, assistance with maintenance enforcement or restraining orders, or educating the community on the work of their agency. If you provide information to your clients or the community about any part of the justice process, you can be considered to be providing PLE.
Therefore, to ensure that your innovative work is included in this project, we are asking you to help develop this database. If you produce materials such as brochures, posters or videos, then please send us a copy. Our address is listed on page 1 of the newsletter. We will collect the information on behalf of Alberta Justice.
|Ready, Set, Go: Recommendations In Action|
As you know, the Justice Summit of 1999 was very successful in involving the participants to help define a vision for Albertas justice system. Since then, Alberta Justice and the sectors have worked constructively to try to implement recommendations and to meet the needs of Albertans involved in the justice process.
Alberta Justice has
produced a report card on the progress that has been made by the Department
since the Justice Summit. We have highlighted some of the key changes in the
system that may have implications for your agency and your clients. If you want
further details, please access:
Increasing Accessibility to the Law:
Legal Aid has had an infusion of $4.7 million. More low income Albertans will have access to Legal Aid than before, with an increase of 5% in the income eligibility amount.
The Civil Claims Mediation Project in Edmonton, which allows resolution of disputes without trial, has been made permanent and it is now supplemented with a Mediation Centre that includes a new Legal Aid Centre and, therefore, makes legal help more accessible.
Victims of Violence:
First Nations and Metis:
The federal government has provided funding for the Metis settlements in Alberta to develop and implement community justice programs and the provincial government has signed a deal to help the Metis settlements implement this strategy.
We hope that the above-mentioned examples give you an idea of the breadth and scope of change that the Justice Summit has brought about.
|Fulfilling Our Part Of The Bargain|
As you have seen from the previous articles, there has been a good deal of activity towards putting Summit recommendations into practice. Many of the justice system sectors who were involved in planning the Summit are now busy making the changes indicated by Albertans, Summit delegates and the sectors.
As representative of the NGO sector, I have been watching this activity with interest, looking for opportunities for members of the NGO sector to get involved. It strikes me that sectors achieving results are those that are organized, have a lead or key organization, or have the machinery in place to help them mobilize for action.
Unfortunately, this cannot easily be said of the NGO sector. I was asked by the Minister to represent this sector that is quite large, very diverse and not well organized to mobilize in the justice field. I spent time deciding what agencies the sector included and creating a database of NGOs that was inclusive yet manageable. The next step is to communicate with NGOs, which is the goal of this newsletter.
The limitation of a newsletter is that it is only one-way communication. To be most effective in representing you on the Policy Advisory Committee, I also need to be talking with you and taking your issues and your agendas forward to the Minister and the other sectors.
You may recall that during the Summit planning phase, I met with interested NGOs in 6 Alberta communities to get input into the Summit. The topic focus for our meetings was crime prevention, recognizing that NGOs are active in crime prevention through social development in all their frontline programs. NGOs clear messages about the importance of early intervention and social development in preventing crime were heard during the Summit, and a number of Summit recommendations called for action similar to what NGOs had suggested.
When you look at what has been achieved since the Summit, it becomes clear that the leadership shown in this area by the NGO sector and the messages about crime prevention through social development (CPSD) need to be reinforced. NGOs are the do-ers of CPSD. We understand the devastation in peoples lives that may lead them to crime. We know what needs to be done to prevent the devastation.
I believe that NGOs have an opportunity to show leadership in helping the government better understand, more fully commit to and more effectively implement CPSD. Social development is the common strength of our sector; it is the critical piece around which we came to a common understanding during Summit planning and around which our leadership can be evident again.
I plan to visit 6 to 8 communities in May and June to meet with NGOs again on the issue of crime prevention. I am confident that together we can help to define a crime prevention policy for Alberta and provide direction on the difference that can be made in peoples lives when we address social issues early and with long term goals in mind.
I look forward to seeing you in the spring.
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