Drug treatment courts are not new, but a drug treatment court in Alberta and in the Edmonton Capital Region is a new concept. The Edmonton program does not purport to “invent a new wheel.” The benefits of the history of the development of this type of court program, in Canada and worldwide, have been examined and form the underlying foundation for the Edmonton program. However, the Edmonton program has features and incorporates principles that distinguish it from the “typical” drug court and to a certain extent from the current models in Canada. In particular, this distinction is found in the incorporation of restorative justice and community justice aspects1.

The fundamental difference between the Edmonton operation of its Drug Treatment Court, and all the others, is clearly indicated in the name of the Court – “ The Edmonton Drug Treatment and Community Restoration Court [EDTCRC]”. So that at the very heart of the purpose of the Court is not only to facilitate the recovery from drug addiction, but to restore the person to physical, mental, and social health, and to thereby also restore a measure of health to the larger community.

This is not a “quick fix” type of activity; it takes considerable time and considerable effort on the part of the recovering addict and the various community and government agencies working with and supporting them. From the time a person first enters into the program until their successful “graduation” is more likely than going to about close to 12 months. Now, in the “typical” Drug Treatment Court model, once the person has been through the Court program, and has demonstrated that they “have been clean” for a period of months and are beginning the steps to obtain (or retain) employment, this is sufficient for “graduation”, which culminates with a sentence being passed by the presiding Judge that is usually a short period of probation.

The EDTCRC however, operates on the principal that “ graduation” is but the first step to restoration of the individual and the community. And it is here where the full plethora of community supports and programs now begin to take effect to assist the individual in sustaining their recovery from addiction and their reintegration into the community as healthy and productive citizens.

Again, it must be emphasized that for the individuals opting to have their matter dealt with by the EDTCRC, this will almost certainly be “the hardest work” they have ever done – they will, in essence, be required to end their lives of addiction and criminal activity, and join the community as responsible and contributing citizens – for, in the case of many, the very first time in their life.

There are a number of other facets of the EDTCRC that differentiate it from other, more “traditional” Drug Treatment Courts – indeed, far more than can be touched on in the space here. Suffice it to say that those involved in the efforts to attract funding for the Court to Edmonton, and those involved in its continued governance, operation, and evaluation, are confident the restorative/rehabilitative justice model adopted by the Court will prove, in the long run, to be a model that other Drug Treatment Courts can rely on to inform their operation.

In conclusion, it should be noted that the initial funding for the EDTCRC (and other Drug Treatment Courts in Canada) is for 4 years, and may be renewed in April, 2009. It should also be noted that without the support of the Alberta Ministers of Justice and Public Security, and the active involvement, when required, of Mr. Terrence Matchett, Q.C., Deputy Attorney General and Deputy Minister of Justice, there is very little likelihood that the Edmonton application for funding for the EDTCRC would have been successful.

1 From the program Description of the Edmonton Drug Treatment & Community Restoration Court.