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Legal Aid Ontario developing Aboriginal Justice Strategy

Posted on: Thursday, April 24 /08

Aboriginal Justice Strategy Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is developing a multi-year Aboriginal Justice Strategy to improve justice services for Aboriginal people in Ontario.

After consulting with client service agencies and community Aboriginal organizations to get a better understanding of local priorities for legal aid services, LAO's Policy Counsel is preparing a draft report to circulate for discussion at a second round of consultations with stakeholders before a final plan is drafted. The results are then scheduled to be presented to LAO's Board.

Approximately 10 consultations will take place over the next few months with Aboriginal lawyers, organizations, advocacy groups, law students and members of the judiciary with a mind to addressing recommendations based on the service needs, areas to be improved, and identified priorities.

The impetus for the new strategy began in the spring of 2006 when the president of LAO followed the advice of the Aboriginal Issues Advisory Committee and committed $50,000 to develop a plan to address many of their concerns.

The strategy is in line with LAO's Value Agenda, a broad management plan to improve the delivery and impact of legal aid services.

The incarceration rate of Aboriginal people across Canada, particularly among youths, is several times higher than the rate for non-Aboriginals.

There are more Aboriginal people in Ontario than any other province or territory. For LAO, "Aboriginal" includes people on and off reserve, status and non-status, as well as Metis and Inuit.

The project commits LAO to achieving several high-level objectives for improved legal aid services to Aboriginal people in Ontario over the next three to five years, including criminal and family law services, legal aid certificates and duty counsel.

The final plan will include options for enhancing existing legal aid services and potentially introducing new ones for Ontario Aboriginal communities.

Key stakeholders participating in the Aboriginal Justice Strategy consultation process include:

  • The Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres
  • Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto
  • Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services Corporation
  • The Ministry of the Attorney General
  • The Ontario Secretariat for Aboriginal Affairs
  • The Aboriginal Justice Directorate of the Department of Justice Canada
  • Staff from LAO offices in areas with significant Aboriginal populations
  • Union of Ontario Indians

If you would like to get in touch with someone to discuss the consultation process, please contact:

Christa Big Canoe
Policy Counsel
Provincial Office
Legal Aid Ontario
Atrium on Bay
40 Dundas Street West, Suite 200
Toronto, ON M5G 2H1
416-979-2352 Ext. 6414
canoec@lao.on.ca