Aboriginal Justice Strategy Evaluation, Final Report

2. Description of the Aboriginal Justice Strategy

This section of the report describes the AJS. It discusses the policy context relating to the Strategy and describes its program logic, management structure and financial resources.

2.1 Program Rationale

The AJS is one component of the federal government's response to the well-documented fact that a disproportionate number of Aboriginal people are in conflict with the law. Over the years, the federal government has addressed this issue with a continuum of policies, programs and initiatives to address the disproportionate rates of crime, incarceration and victimization experienced by Aboriginal people.

Aboriginal persons account for 21% of adults in remand, 27% of adults in provincial and territorial sentenced custody, 18% of adults in federal custody, 18% of adults on probation, and 20% of conditional sentences, despite representing only 3% of the Canadian adult population according to the 2006 Census. The over-representation of Aboriginal persons in the corrections system is worsening over time, increasing by 2% between 2004-05 and 2008-09[2]. The rate at which the over-representation of Aboriginal persons in the correctional system over time is partly accounted for by the growing Canadian Aboriginal population: the general Aboriginal population in Canada has increased by 20.1% between 2001 and 2006, while the federally incarcerated Aboriginal population rose by 19.7%. However, the population of federally incarcerated Aboriginal women increased by 131% over the same period of time[3].

This over-representation extends to rates of criminal victimization as well: in 2009, 37% of Aboriginal persons self-reported being the victim of a crime, compared to 26% of non-Aboriginal persons[4].

The Aboriginal Justice Initiative was created in 1991 by the Department of Justice as a pilot project to support community-based justice programs across Canada. The Initiative was renewed and expanded in 1996, at which point it was renamed the Aboriginal Justice Strategy. The development of the AJS was a collaborative effort that included Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, the Privy Council Office, Public Safety Canada and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The AJS was renewed in 2002 with additional funding as a cost-shared program with the provinces/territories to address service gaps in urban, off-reserve and Métis populations. By 2003, AJS-funded programs were operating in all provinces and territories. The AJS was most recently renewed for a five-year term in 2007, with enhanced funding.

2.2 Program Logic

The AJS supports a range of activities that are expected to contribute to the achievement of specific policy goals. This sub-section describes the AJS program logic and is based on the 2007 AJS RMAF.

2.2.1 Program Goals and Objectives

The main goal of the AJS is to increase community involvement in the local administration of justice, in order to reduce the rates of crime, incarceration and victimization among Aboriginal people in communities operating AJS programs. The AJS strengthens the justice system by providing timely and effective alternatives to mainstream justice processes in appropriate circumstances, thereby allowing the mainstream judicial system to focus its energies and resources on more serious offences. Examples of AJS-funded community-based justice programs include diversion measures, community sentencing, and family and civil mediation.

The AJS pursues four core objectives:

  • to contribute to decreasing the rates of crime and victimization in Aboriginal communities operating AJS programs;
  • to assist Aboriginal communities to take greater responsibility for justice administration;
  • to provide better and more timely information about community justice programs funded by the AJS; and,
  • to reflect and include relevant Aboriginal cultural values in Canadian justice administration.

2.2.2 Program Activities and Outputs

Community-based justice programs

Through contribution agreements, the AJS provides cost-shared funding to community-based justice programs in Aboriginal communities. The Aboriginal Justice Directorate (AJD) negotiates, signs and manages these contribution agreements, which can either be bilateral with the recipient organization or tripartite with the recipient organization and respective province or territory. As a result of this contribution, the federal government expects that community-based justice programs will be implemented to serve Aboriginal communities.

Funding from this component supports community-based justice programs that are developed and managed in partnership with Aboriginal communities. These programs are cost-shared with the provinces and territories and delivered in a culturally relevant and community-driven manner. Program models that commonly operate under the AJS focus primarily on diversion/alternative measures of those who have committed non-violent property or lesser offences, community sentencing, mediation, and court/community justice programs. Community-based justice programs can receive contribution funding up to a maximum of $500,000 per fiscal year per program, subject to cost-sharing arrangements with the provincial or territorial funding partner.

As of 2011-12, AJS funded 214 programs; in 2006-07, approximately 100 community-based justice programs were in place across Canada.

Eligible applicants for support under this component are:

  • Bands, First Nations, Tribal Councils, local, regional and national Aboriginal organizations;
  • agencies and institutions of regional/municipal governments;
  • non-profit community organizations, societies, and associations which have voluntarily associated themselves for a non-profit purpose; and,
  • provincial and territorial governments, in the case of flow-through agreements in which funds are distributed to community programs.

Capacity building funds

The Capacity Building Fund is meant to support capacity building initiatives in Aboriginal communities, and funds are distributed with consideration of geographical representation and the following five objectives:

  • to support training and developmental needs of Aboriginal communities that do not have community-based justice programs;
  • to support ongoing training, evaluation, and data collection needs, as well as the sharing of best practices and useful models, for current community-based justice programs;
  • to support activities aimed at improving data management and reporting for current community-based justice programs;
  • to support the development of new community-based justice programs; and,
  • to support one-time or annual events aimed at building partnerships between Aboriginal communities and the mainstream justice system.

Communities that do not have AJS-funded community justice programs can access capacity building funds to research traditional justice practices, assess the capacity to launch a program, determine the community's needs, or launch trials.

The AJS may cover up to 100 percent of the cost of the activities under this component. The AJD negotiates, signs and manages these contribution agreements. As a result of these agreements, the federal government expects that training and developmental activities will serve Aboriginal communities. Resources for the Capacity Building Fund are determined year-to-year, and generally after the commitment of funds to community-based justice programs. In 2010-11, 50 projects were funded through the Capacity Building Fund.

The call for proposals to access capacity building funds typically occurs in the late fall, following which the project proposals are assessed by a National Review Committee, whose funding recommendations are provided to the Minister/financial delegate. Once approved, applicants are notified of the results; funding agreements are drafted, and payments are released once activities are undertaken and claims provided.

Aboriginal Justice Strategy Federal-Provincial-Territorial Working Group

The AJS Federal-Provincial-Territorial Working Group (AJS FPT WG) serves as a policy forum for ongoing monitoring of inter-jurisdictional issues that concern the AJS. The AJS FPT WG is co-chaired by the Director of the AJD and a provincial or territorial representative, and all provinces and territories have a designated representative as a member of the Working Group, which mandate is as follows:

  • to serve as a resource on issues related to AJS programs and on issues related to Aboriginal people in the justice system;
  • to serve as a forum for exchanging information, sharing best practices and engaging members on various AJS issues;
  • to provide advice on AJS programs cost-sharing issues including the negotiation, monitoring and implementation of contribution agreements;
  • to advise on the potential impact of new policy changes on the AJS program and its clients;
  • to develop possible approaches and undertake evaluation and research activities to support the provision of effective AJS program delivery;
  • to establish, participate and maintain FPT working groups or other such bodies to handle specific portions of its mandate (e.g. evaluation activities, data collection); and,
  • to ensure linkages with other FPT groups, such as the FPT Working Group on Aboriginal Justice[5], the FPT WG on the Aboriginal Courtwork Program, and the FPT WG on Victims of Crime.

2.2.3 Expected Impacts

Activities listed in the preceding subsection are expected to contribute to the achievement of the following initial outcomes:

  • Increased capacity to implement community-based justice programs and other community-based justice services. Not all Aboriginal communities are in a position to implement and manage community-based justice programs effectively. Through the training and development initiatives that the AJS funds, it is expected that a number of Aboriginal communities will increase their capacity to offer such programs or to improve the delivery of the programs they already offer.
  • Access to and participation in community-based justice programs and other community justice services tailored to Aboriginal needs. It is expected that the federal contribution that is provided through the AJS, combined with other financial contributions (particularly those of the provinces and territories), will translate into actual access to and participation in community-based justice programs for Aboriginal communities.

The AJS activities are also expected to contribute to the achievement of these intermediate outcomes:

  • Aboriginal communities are more involved in local justice administration. It is expected that funding provided through the AJS will increase community involvement in the local administration of justice by offering community-based justice programs that are complementary to the mainstream justice system.
  • Relevant Aboriginal cultural values are reflected in the Canadian justice administration. Community-based justice programs will be recognized as an effective response to less serious offences, and will encourage Aboriginal cultural values to be reflected in the Canadian justice administration.

Finally, the AJS activities are expected to contribute to the achievement of the following long-term outcomes:

  • Reduced crime and incarceration rates in communities with funded programs.
  • Safer and healthier communities.

Figure 1 below presents these intended outcomes graphically in the AJS logic model.


2.3 Organizational Structure

The AJD and the Aboriginal Law and Strategic Policy (ALSP) Group are both involved in the management of the AJS. Within the Department of Justice, the AJD falls under the Programs Branch, within the Policy Sector, while ALSP is located within the Aboriginal Affairs Portfolio (see Figure 2).

Figure 2 - AJS Management Structure


The AJD and ALSP have distinct roles to play with respect to the management of the AJS. The AJD has responsibility for managing the funding allocation and contribution agreements signed under the AJS, and works with governmental and non-governmental organizations to ensure that funding agreements are fulfilled in accordance with program compliance requirements, that planned outcomes are achieved, and that those results are communicated to the policy community. The AJD also has responsibility for communicating with Justice stakeholders and other departments about programs funded through the AJS and for keeping abreast of issues that may affect the AJS program delivery. The Director of the AJD co-chairs the AJS FPT WG.

ALSP is responsible for the departmental policy function with respect to Aboriginal justice, including securing policy renewals of the AJS and promoting the program at the national level. The mandate of ALSP includes leading federal initiatives to advance the commitments made by the Minister of Justice in the 2007 renewal of the AJS as well as recommendations made by the Auditor General and the Treasury Board. ALSP chairs the Federal Committee on Aboriginal Safety and Justice (formerly the Federal Committee to Improve Justice and Safety in Aboriginal Communities), a federal committee for the purpose of exploring opportunities to create a more integrated, horizontal and accountable delivery framework across the Aboriginal justice spectrum. ALSP also provides ongoing policy advice to the Minister of Justice in relation to existing and emerging Aboriginal justice issues, and co-chairs the officials-level FPT Working Group on Aboriginal Justice.

2.4 Resources

When the federal government first launched the AJS in 1996, it allocated $4.5 million annually to the program, a figure that increased to $8.6 million annually by the end of the first funding allocation in 2000-01. While it initially allocated $11.5 million annually to AJS from 2002-03 to 2006-07, budget-reallocation and adjustments to the AJS by the federal government meant that the program's actual allocation has been varying between $9.4 million and $10.3 million annually.

The AJS was most recently renewed in 2007, with enhanced funding. In August 2008, the Minister of Justice confirmed that the AJS had been renewed for the period 2007-08 to 2011-12, and that the total enhanced funding would represent a $40 million investment over this five-year period ($6 million in 2007-08, and $8.5 million each year from 2008-09 to 2011-12).

Enhanced funding allowed the AJS to expand its reach into areas of high need, such as urban, northern, and off-reserve Aboriginal communities, in addition to focusing on Aboriginal youth. Overall, it brought the total federal investment in the AJS to $85 million over the five-year period from 2007 to 2012.

Table 1 below outlines the funding allocated for the AJS for the period covered by the evaluation.

Table 1: AJS Funding Allocation ($M)
Initial allocation 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 Total
AJS (base) 9.0 9.0 9.0 9.0 9.0 45.0
AJS (expansion) 4.0 10.5 8.5 8.5 8.5 40.0
Total 13.0 19.5 17.5 17.5 17.5 85.0

Source: AJS RMAF 2007

  • [2]  Statistics Canada, The Incarceration of Aboriginal People in Adult Correctional Services, Juristat 29(3), July 2009.

  • [3]  Office of the Correctional Investigator, Good Intentions, Disappointing Results: A Progress Report on Federal Aboriginal Corrections, 2010.

  • [4]  Statistics Canada, Violent victimization of Aboriginal people in the Canadian provinces, 2009, March 11, 2011.

  • [5]  The FPT Working Group on Aboriginal Justice is a working group separate from the AJS FPT WG. It is co-chaired by ALSP and its mandate is to look at broad Aboriginal justice policy issues.

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