By now, Albertans are familiar with the variety of summits held by the government to seek input and recommendations on public policy. The Summit on Justice was held in early 1999 to obtain input about changes to the justice system.
The Summit was planned by two committees made up of representatives from the various components of the justice system, which were called the sectors. There were 14 sectors involved in the planning.
The vast number of non-government organizations (NGOs) that have an interest in justice were represented by Christine Leonard, Executive Director of the John Howard Society of Alberta. Leonard met with over 200 staff and volunteers from NGOs as she traveled the province consulting the NGO sector, getting their input into the Summit. Each sector representative consulted others within their sector in order to prepare a sector brief.
In addition, an all-party MLA consultation committee was established to co-ordinate public input. The public responded at hearings and in writing.
Two-thirds of the delegates who attended the Summit were randomly selected public members. The remaining delegates were appointed by the sectors.
Delegates to the Summit were given a summary of the input received from the sectors and the public so that they could prepare for the discussion. Over 500 recommendations were written by Summit delegates. Results and summary recommendations from the Summit were prepared and submitted to the government in the form of a Final Report.
With the Justice Summit completed, members of the planning committees were re-appointed to the new Policy Advisory Committee (PAC). The PAC is now overseeing implementation of the Summit recommendations, and Christine Leonard is again acting as NGO sector representative.
As NGO representative, Leonard continues to advocate for strong involvement of NGOs in the implementation of Justice Summit recommendations and is seeking input and feedback from the NGO sector.
The Final report of the Summit included 25 Core Recommendations that captured the essence of the 517 recommendations written by the delegates. Implementing these recommendations is now the challenge for all the sectors. Delegates to the Summit recognized that change has to come at all levels of the system and that it wont be meaningful if attempted by the government alone. More importantly, delegates were very clear about the need for greater community involvement in both follow-up to the recommendations and in the justice process itself.
Alberta Justice included Summit follow-up in its Business Plan and is preparing a Report Card that will outline the Departments plans for implementation. There are opportunities for NGOs in these implementation plans. The challenge now is for all of the sectors, including NGOs, to get active.
We encourage you to review the Final Report. You can phone 310-0000 for a copy or access it on-line at: www.gov.ab.ca/just (Click on Publications).
Focus on the recommendations of most interest to your work. You may notice two things:
In addition, you can take advantage of the two consultations that are described below.
One of the core recommendations states that the language, procedures, and accessibility of the justice system be simplified, made more user friendly, and made easier to understand. As a result, a Task Force was established to look into simplifying family court structures and procedures in particular.
A consultation paper, including a questionnaire, is available to assist those who want to provide input. Topics for discussion include levels of satisfaction with court processes, changes that would improve court processes, whether family law matters should be heard by specialized family law judges, and what services should be offered to assist adults involved in family court proceedings, as well as other topics.
Your NGO may assist clients who are involved with family law issues. It is important that your agency and the people you serve take this opportunity to provide input into improving the family law system. There are several ways to get involved:
The deadline for feedback to the Task Force is September 30, 2000. The task force is to submit its report to the Minister of Justice by the end of 2000.
NGOs can play a significant role in community justice by demonstrating how restorative justice can enhance perceptions of safety, health and welfare within participating communities.
Alberta Justice has taken action on this by releasing a draft of its new Community Justice Policy, which supports the implementation of restorative justice processes. The draft was sent to over 400 government and non-government organizations throughout the province for feedback and involvement regarding the community justice policy. Bruce Anderson, from Alberta Justice, advises that there will be a series of stakeholder consultations in the fall. You are encouraged to provide feedback or become involved with the stakeholder consultations by contacting Bruce Anderson.
You can obtain a copy of the draft or provide your feedback on the Community Justice Policy by contacting Bruce Anderson directly at:Bruce Anderson
Alberta Justice Public Security Division
10th Fl.,10365-97 St.
Edmonton, AB T5J 3W7
Ph: (780) 422-8318
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