Open Government at Justice Canada: A Year in Review – June 2020
This has been a truly transformative year for open government at Justice Canada. What started as a project in 2015 has reached a level of maturity in 2020 that has allowed the Department to move beyond the objectives set out in the OpenGov Terms of Reference.
It is not possible to look back on this year without noting the Coronavirus pandemic and the impact it has had on our work. The unprecedented global health crisis has changed much of what we took for granted and illustrated the importance of open government principles by providing concrete examples of how open information, open data and open dialogue can build trust in government and improve democracy.
Last September, we set ambitious goals that explored new opportunities and broadened our horizons within three priority areas: open justice, open data, and training and awareness.
Open Justice. We proposed the addition of an open justice themed commitment on Canada’s 5th National Action Plan on Open Government (NAP).
- In September, a special open justice workshop was held with stakeholders from across the Department to discuss what an open justice commitment could look like
- With these suggestions a draft commitment Open Justice: A people centered approach to justice was approved by the Committee on Agenda, Advice and Results (CAAR) to move through the NAP engagement process coordinated by Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS).
- Justice Canada supported TBS’s NAP engagement strategy by co-developing an Open Justice Toolbox and co-hosting a webinar called “Get up to Speed: Open Justice” that provided stakeholders and the public with an overview of open justice, key issues and considerations for a commitment. Further public engagement and consultations are currently on hold.
Open Data. The Department’s Data Strategy and National Action Plan Commitment presented us with multiple opportunities to increase our capacity to prioritize and release open data.
- The Open Government team has taken on the development of a data inventory as part of the Data Strategy in partnership with Research and Statistics Division (RSD) and Legal Practices Branch (LPB)
- We are working with Communications Branch, RSD and Business Applications to modify the Request to Release application to streamline the release of open data to the Open Government Portal.
- Multiple areas in the Department are exploring the use of geospatial data and its potential release to the Open Maps stream of the Open Government Portal
Training and Awareness. This year we were able to collaborate with partners from across the Department, the GC and the world to bring awareness about open government and open justice.
- We developed an Open Government Training Module that can be presented in French or English to all sectors and portfolios and teaches you all you need to know about open government. We are collaborating with Learning and Professional Development (LPD) to develop a self-directed version, which should be available by the end of the year.
- In September, the Policy Sector launched their Access to Justice Secretariat (A2J) to chart a leadership role for Justice Canada to advance Sustainable Development Goal 16, foster policy research and promote a people centered approach to justice for all.
- The A2J Secretariat contributed to the Terms of Reference for the new OGP Coalition on Justice of which, Canada was a founding member at the OGP Global Summit in 2019
- We worked with the Family Law Directorate to advance a second Open Doors event to discuss amendments to the Divorce Act.
- We launched a new GCconnex DLSU Community of Practice to support better communications with Justice Employees working in legal service units.
Some of this work is on pause because of the Coronavirus pandemic but we are proud that we have still been able to achieve many of our goals.
We are even more proud that Justice Canada has actively contributed to the Coronavirus pandemic response measures. We released information related to:
- New legislation and regulations that were adopted to protect Canadians in response to the pandemic
- Family support obligations in the context of the Coronavirus pandemic
- Temporary e-measures put in place for initiating Service on the Crown to minimize the impact of the pandemic on the justice system
In addition, the department has provided Justice Employees with a significant amount of information to help them navigate the current situation, much of which is also available to the public.
Finally, Justice Canada participated in the OGP’s Open Response + Open Recovery Campaign and Digital Forum, which replaced Open Government Week this year. We participated in a webinar on Access to Justice and Open Government during a Pandemic and through social media, we promoted Justice Canada COVID-19 related information available on the public facing website.
We are able to draw strength from open government during this time, the benefits and opportunities of which have never been more apparent. We can see transparency, innovation and collaboration in action as the Department works together to respond to the pandemic, inform and maintain public trust, and explore new ways of working in an ever-changing environment.
We may not know what our ‘new normal’ will look like but we can take comfort in knowing we have a strong foundation in open government at Justice Canada and that we are ready to take the next step to become a formal program that will continue to support the work to recover from the Coronavirus pandemic.
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