Funding for Indigenous-led projects in Toronto, Ontario, to address overrepresentation in the justice system

News release

Funding for Indigenous-led projects in Toronto, Ontario, to address overrepresentation in the justice system

March 12, 2024 – Toronto, Ontario – Department of Justice Canada

Indigenous people are overrepresented in the Canadian justice system, whether as victims, accused, or offenders. Access to Indigenous-led justice services across Canada continues to be an important way for achieving systemic change in our justice system. That is why programs and resources are needed in every stage of the justice process to create this change.

Today, the Honourable Arif Virani, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, with Julie Dabrusin, Member of Parliament for Toronto - Danforth and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and to the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Canada,  joined Chantell Barker, Executive Director of Aboriginal Legal Services to announce funding of over $2.1 million to support three Indigenous-led projects that aim to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in Canada’s justice system.

  • The first project supports initiatives under the Community Council Program, a criminal diversion program for Indigenous offenders in Toronto. Initiatives include the Giiwedin Anang Council, an Indigenous Family Dispute Resolution program that supports civil family mediation; an evaluation of civil and family mediation; and a community based Gladue Aftercare program, which provides the accused with services to support their healing. Justice Canada is providing $1,290,394 over 6 fiscal years, starting December 2021.  
  • The second project supports the Gladue Program. Funding will help Aboriginal Legal Services write Gladue Reports. Glaude Reports are pre-sentencing reports prepared following a guilty plea or a finding of guilt. They include information on the unique circumstances of the offender and of Indigenous people and provide recommendations to the court regarding appropriate sentencing. Justice Canada is providing $598,309 over 6 fiscal years, starting December 2021.
  • The third project supports Aboriginal Legal Services to prepare a needs assessment for the Toronto Courthouse and Bail Centre Project. This assessment, which is underway, will address the challenges and opportunities presented by the centralization of the Gladue Courts in Toronto. A key focus of this project will be to ensure greater First Nations, Inuit and Métis input into decisions about the Gladue Courts and how they incorporate Gladue Principles. Justice Canada is providing $249,120 over 3 fiscal years, starting 2022.

Justice Canada is providing funding for these projects through the Indigenous Justice Program. This Program supports Indigenous projects and initiatives that offer alternatives to mainstream justice processes in appropriate circumstances.

Today’s announcement supports Canada’s efforts to advance reconciliation and respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action 30 and 31. Addressing the systemic factors that contribute to the overrepresentation of Indigenous people, as well as systemic racism in the justice system, is part of the commitments outlined in the 2021 Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People National Action Plan and the Federal Pathway to Address Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People.

Quotes

“Investing in Indigenous-led projects that address the systemic barriers that First Nations, Inuit and Métis face in the justice system is key to achieving lasting change. Aboriginal Legal Services continues to make a significant difference for urban Indigenous communities in Toronto. Collaborative approaches such as these projects and working together to advance reconciliation are how we will create a better future.”

The Honourable Arif Virani, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

“Helping address and prevent the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the justice system continues to be an important aspect of advancing reconciliation and achieving systemic change. Today’s announcement reaffirms Canada’s commitment to projects like these that reflect the experiences of Indigenous people while supporting culturally appropriate, Indigenous-led and community-based justice services.”

Julie Dabrusin
Member of Parliament for Toronto - Danforth and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and to the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Canada

“In the spirit of Truth and Reconciliation, today’s announcement is very exciting for Aboriginal Legal Services and the people we serve. This funding allows Aboriginal Legal Services to provide a safe space for Indigenous people to speak their truth, address root causes, and restore balance within themselves, their families, and the community. For reconciliation to occur, we must work together to address the over-incarceration of Indigenous people in the justice system by recognizing the importance of culturally-responsive alternatives and solutions.”

Chantell Barker, Executive Director
Aboriginal Legal Services

Quick facts

  • The 2020 Fall Economic Statement made investments to combat systemic discrimination against Indigenous peoples and expand efforts to combat violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQI+ people. This included $49.3 million to support the implementation of Gladue principles in the justice system and Indigenous-led responses to help reduce the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in the criminal justice and correctional systems.

  • The Indigenous Justice Program (IJP) supports Indigenous community-based justice programs that offer alternatives to mainstream justice processes in appropriate circumstances. These programs assist Indigenous peoples in assuming greater responsibility for the administration of justice in their communities. They can work at any point along the justice continuum, including prevention, diversion, and reintegration.

  • The IJP is informed by the MMIWG National Inquiry’s Final Report, notably the Justice chapter and Call for Justice 5.6, and responds to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action (CTA) 30 and 31:

    • CTA 30 – calls upon federal, provincial, and territorial governments to commit to eliminating the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in custody over the next decade, and to issue detailed annual reports that monitor and evaluate progress in doing so.
    • CTA 31 – calls upon the federal, provincial, and territorial governments to provide sufficient and stable funding to implement and evaluate community sanctions that will provide realistic alternatives to imprisonment for Indigenous offenders and respond to the underlying causes of offending.
  • The IJP also contributes to achieving the objectives of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in line with the framework set out in the UN Declaration Act (UNDA) and the commitments made in the UNDA Action Plan.

  • In consultation and cooperation with First Nations, Inuit and Métis, Justice Canada is also developing an Indigenous Justice Strategy to address systemic discrimination and the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the justice system. This work is also being advanced in close collaboration with the provinces and territories given their key role and jurisdiction in relation to the administration of justice in Canada.

  • The release and early implementation of the Indigenous Justice Strategy is planned for 2024. To date, Indigenous partners have emphasized that the Indigenous Justice Strategy must address issues that span across the justice system continuum, from crime prevention to re-integration. 

  • There is also a broad consensus on the pressing need for increased and sustainable funding to support culturally sensitive interventions in these areas, including investments in the IJP to increase accessibility of community-based justice programs and to reach unserved/underserved communities.

Associated links

Contacts

For more information, media may contact:

Chantalle Aubertin
Deputy Director, Communications
Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
613-992-6568
Chantalle.Aubertin@justice.gc.ca

Media Relations
Department of Justice Canada
613-957-4207
media@justice.gc.ca

Chantell Barker
Executive Director
Aboriginal Legal Services
chantellbarker@aboriginallegal.ca

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