The Challenges of Youth Justice in Rural and Isolated Areas in Canada

6. Innovations

A number of innovations have emerged in response to the barriers and challenges of delivering a fair and effective youth justice system in rural and isolated areas. These include:

  • In rural Manitoba, contract workers are partnered with other organizations such as health and safety (domestic violence); where there are Métis communities close to First Nations, there is a division of labour with people moving in and out of one another's systems when required;
  • In Manitoba , there are also community participation agreements;
  • British Columbia is trying to develop programs for better transition for Aboriginal youth on release; this is working well with schools and Elders, but needs funding;
  • Teleconferencing is enabling alternatives like family group conferences to take place when people cannot be together physically;
  • Alberta is doing telepsychiatry in northern areas and training more of their own non-specialized staff to identify specialized problems, assess youth and hook them up with services - in other words, substituting general staff for specialists;
  • Alberta has worked out specialized agreements with hospitals and psychiatrists to assess and treat youth with mental health needs;
  • The NWT now requires CJCs to handle not only individual diversions, but also to identify the larger underlying problems. The end result is that while 10 years ago, a community committee would just give up on youth after three offences, now they explore the problem more deeply. Some of the examples of larger CJC initiatives (some, but not all, involve outside resources):
    • parenting workshops;
    • bullying workshop in school;
    • placing youth on committees;
    • peer mediators who advise judges on how to sentence ( Inuvik );
    • anger management programs;
  • In recent years, British Columbia has used new federal money to establish alternative measures and community-based programs, and has established new residential treatment beds; has expanded violent offender treatment programs throughout the province; has converted residential to non-residential programs; increased the number of contract non-residential supervision workers (ISSPs) to work with youth in their own homes;
  • In British Columbia , the creation of the unified youth and family ministry has helped the rural and or isolated problem, as has the use of Native Justice Workers to deliver diversion services in communities;
  • In Nunavut , and some other jurisdictions, there are Regional Justice Specialists in place, who concentrate on assisting communities to increase their capacity to handle their social problems;
  • In Ontario , programs tailored to work with Aboriginal reserves are creating new partnerships;
  • In Nova Scotia , the Valley Restorative Justice is contracted to the Department of Justice to run restorative justice programs in three counties (each with unique contracts with the province). Nova Scotia is the only province that has legislated restorative justice approaches for young offenders at all levels. The program is primarily for youth, runs in urban and rural communities, and has guidelines legislated by the province. The program has four goals - reduced recidivism; victim satisfaction; increased public confidence in the justice system; and assisting communities to deal with problems. It is not a victim veto program and can use victim surrogates. The program:
    • can be entered via police, Crown, court or corrections;
    • can be pre-charge;
    • can be for repeat or violent offenders;
  • Because of the distances in the Nunavut Territory and the shortage of lawyers, legal aid has made it widely known that anyone can call them collect at any time and there will be an Inuk person answering the phone;
  • Video-conferencing has promoted victim involvement;
  • In Alberta , training material for Youth Justice Committees is on the Internet; British Columbia has a 24- hour "telebail" service and, before that, had Justices of the Peace on call.
Date modified: