First Nations community honours local clinic staff for LAO-supported outreach
Posted on: Friday, September 7, 2012
On July 6, local First Nations elders recognized Community Legal Assistance Sarnia (CLAS) employee Jeff Plain with the prestigious Eagle Feather, in honour of Plain’s outstanding outreach work – supported by a two-year grant of $165,000 through Legal Aid Ontario’s Innovation Fund – with their communities.
“Jeff helps Aboriginal youth navigate the sharp objects within the justice system,” said CLAS’s Executive Director Andrew Bolter. “He’s like a cultural ambassador, bridging the gaps in trust.”
The Baamsedaa initiative
Mr. Plain, a Community Legal Worker at CLAS, developed the groundbreaking Baamsedaa (Let’s Walk Together) initiative for CLAS in 2011.
A member of Aamjiwnaang First Nation, Plain assists CLAS’s Aboriginal clients one-on-one. He supports people from their initial intake at the clinic, right through to “walking” with each person as he or she seeks justice.
This initiative has helped CLAS build trust between communities, reduce apprehensions and improve access to legal aid services for Aboriginal clients.
“Many of our people have trust issues and avoid seeking justice, resulting in the potential for many negative effects on them or their families,” added Plain. “Providing outreach allows people to begin the process in a setting that is comfortable and enables them to build trust.”
Educating the community
The Baamsedaa project also provides area community members, college students and youth with educational materials on basic legal information.
These materials cover Landlord & Tenant law, Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program denials and appeals, Employment Insurance issues, and human rights issues.
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