Aboriginal Courtwork Program
Since 1978, federal financial support for the Aboriginal Courtwork Program is provided through contribution agreements with participating provincial governments.
In the three territories, federal financial support is provided through the Access to Justice Service Agreements. These Agreements integrate federal support for criminal and civil legal aid, Aboriginal Courtwork, and Public Legal Education and Information.
In most jurisdictions, Aboriginal Courtwork services are delivered by Aboriginal service delivery agencies under contract to the provincial or territorial government. In Manitoba, and the Northwest Territories, Courtworkers are employees of the provincial/territorial government. In Nunavut, Courtwork services are provided through Legal Services clinics.
Aboriginal Courtwork Programs currently operate in every province and territory with the exception of P.E.I., Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick. Nationally, over 180 Courtworkers provide services to approximately 60,000 Aboriginal clients in over 450 communities each year.
Who is eligible?
Provincial and Territorial governments are eligible to receive federal financial support for Aboriginal Courtwork Program services.
All Aboriginal people in conflict with the law in Canada are eligible to receive Courtwork services regardless of their status, age or residency.
The purpose of the Aboriginal Courtwork Program is to help Aboriginal people in conflict with the criminal justice system obtain fair, equitable, culturally-sensitive treatment.
The objectives of the Aboriginal Courtwork Program are to:
- Assist Aboriginal people to understand their right to speak on their own behalf or to request legal counsel; and, to better understand the nature of the charges against them and the philosophy and functioning of the criminal justice system;
- Assist those involved in the administration of the criminal justice system become aware and appreciate the values, customs, languages and socio-economic conditions of Aboriginal people; and
- Respond to problems and special needs caused by communication barriers between Aboriginal people and those who are involved in the administration of the criminal justice system.
Courtworkers help Aboriginal clients by:
- providing Aboriginal persons charged with an offence and their family members with accurate information at the earliest possible stage of the criminal justice process;
- referring Aboriginal persons charged with an offence to appropriate legal resources at key stages of the justice process (e.g., arrest, trial, sentencing), where practical
- referring Aboriginal persons charged with an offence to appropriate resources, such as, social and medical services, education, employment and Aboriginal community support. These resources will ensure that they have help in addressing the underlying problems which may have contributed to their charges. Where appropriate, Courtworkers advocate for these services before the courts and ensure, to the extent possible, that they are delivered;
- providing assistance, as appropriate, to other Aboriginal persons involved in the criminal justice process (for example, victims, witnesses and family members);
- promoting and facilitating practical, community-based justice initiatives that help communities to identify and address problems that could end up in the courts or community justice system; and,
- serving as a "bridge" between criminal justice officials and Aboriginal people and communities by advocating for Aboriginal people before the courts, providing liaison, and promoting two-way communication.
In support of Section 41 of the Official Languages Act, the Department is committed to facilitate the participation of official language minority communities and their organizations in the development and assessment of the Department's policies, programs and services having significant impact on the development of the communities; and to take measures to ensure that the Department of Justice's programs and services reach official language minority communities. In the context of project funding, these measures include:
- outreach to official language minority communities to enhance their understanding of the Department of Justice funding programs; and
- encouraging contacts between organizations that are receiving financial assistance and official language minority organizations/groups to ensure that the needs of these communities are taken into consideration in relation to the proposed projects to be considered for Department of Justice Canada funding.
The Department of Justice encourages you to submit all documents electronically. If you submit documentation on paper, please consider printing on both sides of the paper. These actions will minimize environmental impacts.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can a Courtworker help me in Court?
A Courtworker can help you to request legal counsel and to prepare to appear before the court. They can go to court with you (except where not authorized). They can also give you information about the court procedures; explain any directions given by the court; provide cultural interpretation; and, help you to speak with court officials.
Courtworkers can also help you to access, interpret and prepare documents and conditions given by the court. They can provide information on the nature of the charges against you and explain your rights, roles and responsibilities. They can explain alternative/restorative justice options, provide emotional support and help you to find appropriate resources, services and contacts.
How can I become a Courtworker?
The federal government does not hire Courtworkers. If you are interested in becoming a Courtworker, you should contact the provincial or territorial delivery agency listed below.
What training I do need to become a Courtworker?
Courtworkers come into the job with diverse qualifications and backgrounds. Service delivery agencies provide training to all Courtworkers, both new and experienced, to keep their knowledge and skills up-to-date. You should contact the provincial or territorial delivery agency listed below for further information.
Publications and Resources
List of Aboriginal Courtwork Programs across Canada
British Columbia: Native Courtworker and Counselling Association of British Columbia
- Native Counselling Services of Alberta Aboriginal Criminal Court Worker Program*
- Rocky Mountain House - Yellowhead Tribal Council Courtworker Services (780) 483-9404
- Siksika First Nation Courtworker Services (403) 734-5128
- Blood Tribe First Nation Courtworker services (403) 737-2555
- Stony Plain- Yellowhead Tribal Council Courtworker Services (780) 483-9404
- Tsuu T'ina First Nation Tsuu T'ina First Nation Court Worker Services (403) 238-5649 / email@example.com
Saskatchewan: Saskatchewan Aboriginal Courtworker Program (306) 787-9307
Manitoba: Aboriginal Court Worker Program of Manitoba (204) 945-3909
- Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres 1-800-772-9291
- Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto (416) 408-3967
Québec: Native Para-Judicial Services of Quebec (418) 847-2094
- Yukon Department of Justice - Community Justice 1-800-661-0408 ext. 5492
- Dawson City - Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Aboriginal Courtwork Program (867) 993-5385
- Old Crow - Vuntut Gwitchin Aboriginal Courtworker Program (867) 996-3167
- Pelly Crossing - Northern Tutchone Tribal Council Aboriginal Courtwork Program (867) 537-3827 (Pelly) / (867) 996-2820 (Mayo)
- Ross River - Ross River Dena Council Aboriginal Courtworker Program (867)969-2430
- Watson Lake - Liard First Nation Aboriginal Courtwork Program (867) 536-5219 or (867) 536-5209
- Whitehorse - Council of Yukon First Nations Aboriginal Courtwork Program (2) (867) 667-3781/ (867) 667-3783
Nunavut: Nunavut Legal Services Board (Toll free in the 867 area code) 1-866-240-4006
For further information, please contact:
Aboriginal Courtwork Program
Programs Branch, Department of Justice Canada
284 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H8
Or electronically to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or by phone at: (613) 941-4193
Or by fax to: (613) 941-5446
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