Aboriginal Justice Strategy Evaluation, Final Report

4. Key Findings

This section of the report presents evaluation findings as they relate to the relevance and performance of the AJS, combining all lines of evidence.

4.1 Relevance

The key findings regarding the relevance of the AJS focus on its continued need as well as its alignment with the priorities and the roles and responsibilities of the federal government.

4.1.1 Alignment with federal and departmental priorities

The objectives of the AJS are consistent with federal government priorities and the strategic outcomes of the Department of Justice.

All Department of Justice staff and most provincial and territorial representatives interviewed as part of the last mid-term evaluation of the AJS (October 2010) agreed that the objectives of the Strategy align with the strategic outcome of the Department of Justice to "create a fair, relevant and accessible justice system that reflects Canadian values"[8]. All key informants interviewed as part of the evaluation agreed that the AJS contributed to ensuring access to justice programs and services. The AJS provides an alternative to the mainstream justice system which recognizes the cultural values and unique context of Aboriginal communities.

Evidence of the alignment of the AJS with departmental priorities is also present in the 2011-12 Department of Justice Canada Report on Plans and Priorities (RPP). The Department's 2011-12 RPP indicates that Aboriginal justice is one of the five core domains on which the Department will focus in its pursuit of the strategic outcome of a fair, relevant and accessible justice system that reflects Canadian values. Accordingly, the Department of Justice will continue its work with provincial and territorial government counterparts on programs and initiatives intended to address victimization and violence experienced by Aboriginal people as well as their over-representation in the criminal justice system. Additionally, in collaboration with federal, provincial, territorial, Aboriginal and community justice partners, the Department will design AJS renewal beyond 2012.

The objectives of the AJS are also well aligned with federal government priorities. As part of his announcement regarding additional funding to help support traditional Aboriginal justice on August 18, 2008, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada stated that "the Aboriginal Justice Strategy builds on this Government's commitment to reduce and prevent crime, strengthen the justice system and promote safer communities. It is a successful program that helps steer Aboriginal people away from a lifestyle of crime, provides hope and opportunity for Aboriginal youth and helps end cycles of violence." Furthermore, in the Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs[9], the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada stated that "the Government of Canada remains committed to supporting successful justice programs, such as the Aboriginal Justice Strategy, which committed $85 million towards Aboriginal Community Justice Programs and achieves results in reducing and preventing crime in Aboriginal communities."

The Canadian government is focused on five key priorities of importance to Canadians. The AJS directly aligns with one of these priorities, "protecting Canadian families and communities by strengthening the justice system", by supporting programs that target crime, incarceration, and victimization in Aboriginal communities. As will be detailed in Section 4.2, the AJS contributes to reduced rates of re-offending in program participants and to increased feelings of safety in many communities with AJS-funded programs.

The AJS is aligned with federal roles and responsibilities

The responsibility for a fair, relevant and accessible justice system that reflects Canadianvalues does not lie with the Department of Justice alone. Under theConstitution Act 1987, the criminal justice system is an area of shared jurisdictionamong provincial, territorial and federal jurisdictions. The policy mandate of the Minister of Justice includes responsibility for 49 statutes and areas of federal law, including Aboriginal justice. The Department fulfills its constitutional responsibility toensure a bilingual and bijural national legal framework for the administration of justice by developing policies, laws and programs in order to strengthen the national framework. In the case of the AJS, these are aimed at addressing the disproportionate rates of crime, incarceration and victimization experienced by Aboriginal people. The provinces and territories, in turn, are responsible for the day-to-day administration of justice.

The Department does not deliver Aboriginal justice services and programs directly to the public. Rather, it provides funding for community-based justice programs that deliver programs that directly support federal policy objectives. These include Aboriginal justice services such as diversion/alternative measures, community sentencing and mediation.

This aspect of shared jurisdiction emphasizes the importance of provincial/territorial engagement and support when negotiating meaningful justice agreements in Aboriginal communities. The provinces and territories as well as Aboriginal communities have an important role to play under the AJS. As such, community-based justice programs are cost-shared with provincial or territorial funding partners and delivered in a way that reflects the culture and values of the communities in which they are situated.

4.1.2 Continued Need for Program

Statistical data underscores the continued need for the AJS

The AJS was created by the federal government in response to the disproportionate number of Aboriginal persons involved in the criminal justice system, both as victims and offenders. Of the police and Crown surveyed, 83% felt that there is a continued need for community-based Aboriginal justice programs in their jurisdictions.

The ongoing need for the AJS is underscored by the continuing over-representation of Aboriginal persons who are victims, offenders and incarcerated across Canada as evidenced by the following statistics:

  • In 2009, almost 322,000 Aboriginal people aged 15 years or older, or more than one-third (37%) of the Aboriginal population living in the provinces, reported having been a victim of at least one of the eight offences (i.e. sexual assault, robbery, assault, break and enter, theft of motor vehicles or parts, theft of household property, vandalism and theft of personal property) covered by the General Social Survey in the preceding 12 months. This compares to about one-quarter (26%) of non-Aboriginal people who reported having been victimized over the same period[10].
  • In 2009, 12% of Aboriginal people reported being the victim of at least one non-spousal violent crime, more than double the proportion of non-Aboriginal people (5%)[11].
  • In 2008-09, Aboriginal adults accounted for a notable share of admissions to correctional programs, including remand (21%), provincial and territorial sentenced custody (27%), federal custody (18%), probation (18%) and conditional sentences (20%). In contrast, Aboriginal people represented 3% of the Canadian adult population according to the 2006 Census[12].
  • In all provinces and territories, the representation of Aboriginal adults in correctional services exceeds their representation in the general population, with gaps being wider in some jurisdictions than others. For instance, in Saskatchewan, the representation of Aboriginal adults in provincial sentenced custody is seven times greater than their representation in the province's general population (see Table 4 below).
Table 4 - Aboriginal People as a Proportion of Admissions to Remand, Provincial and Territorial Sentenced Custody, Probation and Conditional Sentence, by Jurisdiction, 2007-08
Province and Territory Remand Provincial and Territorial Sentenced Custody1 Probation Conditional Sentence Adult General Population (18 years and older)2
Percent Aboriginal
Newfoundland and Labrador 23 21 .. 23 4
Prince Edward Island 6 1 .. .. 1
Nova Scotia 9 7 5 7 2
New Brunswick 9 8 8 11 2
Quebec 4 2 6 5 1
Ontario 9 9 9 12 2
Manitoba 66 69 56 45 12
Saskatchewan 80 81 70 75 11
Alberta 36 35 24 16 5
British Columbia 20 21 19 17 4
Yukon 78 76 66 62 22
Northwest Territories 85 86 .. .. 45
Nunavut .. .. 97 97 78
  • id="n1" 1. Includes intermittent sentences.
  • id="n2" 2. Proportion is based on data from the 2006 Census.

Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Adult Correctional Services Survey, Integrated Correctional Services Survey and 2006 Census of Population.

  • [8]  /eng/rp-pr/cp-pm/eval/rep-rap/10/ajs-sja/p4.html - 18

  • [9] Proceedings of the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Issue 13 – Evidence for October 20, 2010.

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

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

  • [12] Statistics Canada, Adult Correctional Services in Canada, 2008-09, Juristat, Fall 2010.

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