Aboriginal Justice Strategy
The AJD has committed to formal evaluations of the AJS, as outlined in the AJS RMAF. Over the course of its second five-year mandate, two key evaluations of the AJS have been planned—a mid-term formative evaluation, now complete, and an end-of-mandate summative evaluation.
In June of 2005, the final report of the mid-term evaluation conducted by the Evaluation Division of the DOJ was presented to the AJD. Evaluation findings included these:
- the objectives of the AJS continue to be relevant, and will be increasingly so as the Aboriginal population, particularly youth, increases;
- the administration of justice continues to be an important element of Aboriginal self-government;
- Aboriginal justice stakeholders, including communities and government officials, report improved cooperation and coordination between and among them since the last formal evaluation of the AJS in 2002;
- communities with AJS programs have assumed substantial responsibility for addressing the commission of minor offences under the Criminal Code;
- some AJS programs are also handling drug offences, civil and family disputes, band by-law offences, and a small number of serious Criminal Code offences (e.g. assault);
- the success of the AJS has moved beyond its enumerated objectives to include:
- healing in communities
- improvements to individual lives
- young people feeling more connected to their communities
- increased awareness of victims’ issues, and
- in the mainstream justice system, increased awareness of and recognition given to Aboriginal culture and alternative community programs.
Nine recommendations arose from the mid-term evaluation. They focused on the need for:
- better coordination of Aboriginal justice issues with partners, and early identification of priorities for the next AJS mandate;
- enhanced local and mainstream justice system support for community-based justice programs; and
- increased awareness of specific AJS components including Outreach and Partnership, and the Training and Development and Self-Government Capacity Building Funds.
The mid-term evaluation provided the AJD with information and recommendations to enhance its ability to meet its goals during the balance of the AJS mandate.
A summative evaluation will be undertaken in 2006-07 in contemplation of renewal of the AJS beyond March 2007. The summative evaluation will focus on the continued relevance of the AJS, its success in meeting objectives, and the impact it has had on stakeholders.
The effectiveness of the AJS may be measured, in part, by how well community-based justice programs are working, and by what impact they are having on the justice system. To get at that information, community-based justice programs conduct self-evaluations (using tools and booklets developed by the AJD) and undergo more formal third-party evaluations. In addition to producing information with which to measure the impact and value of the AJS itself, program evaluations make an important contribution to the developing discourse on what constitutes “success” in community-based justice programming, and what performance indicators, outcome measures and study time frames are useful.
Two programs were evaluated by third parties in 2005-06 with AJS participation or funding support. Evaluation results are summarized in Appendix 2.
At the federal government’s invitation, Rodolfo Stavenhagen, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, visited Canada in the spring of 2004. He travelled to various parts of the country, including Ontario, Nova Scotia, Québec, Manitoba and Nunavut, where he met with government officials, Aboriginal communities and non-governmental organizations to discuss Canada’s approach to Aboriginal issues. AJD staff made a presentation on the AJS to Mr. Stavenhagen during his time in Ottawa.
In his report on the Canadian mission, presented to the UN Commission on Human Rights in April of 2005, the Special Rapporteur highlighted the AJS as one of the key programs the federal government has implemented in response to the issues faced by Aboriginal people in the justice system. He urged that efforts increase to reduce and eliminate the over-representation of Aboriginal people in detention, and that Aboriginal justice institutions and mechanisms be officially recognized and fostered with the full participation of Aboriginal communities.
 Rodolfo Stavenhagen, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people: Mission to Canada, UN OHCHR, 61 st sess., UN Doc. E/CN.4/2005/88/Add.3.
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