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Aboriginal Justice Strategy Update

Posted on: Wednesday, February 18 /2009

In 2007, Legal Aid Ontario ("LAO") the commenced the development of an Aboriginal Justice Strategy, with a mandate to develop a three to five year plan to achieve measurable improvements in LAO's services to Aboriginal people. The plan will provide specific options and recommendations to enhance legal aid services.

Initial consultations commenced in 2007, subsequently over 250 individuals including First Nation, Mtis and Inuit people, Aboriginal service agencies, Aboriginal political organizations, LAO area office and clinic staff, private bar lawyers, federal and provincial governments have participated in the development of the Aboriginal Justice Strategy. On June 20, 2008, LAO's Board of Directors approved a development paper and 12 immediate initiatives to provide better services to Aboriginal clients.

Progress of the immediate initiatives:

  1. Hired a First Nation lawyer, Christa Big Canoe, as Aboriginal Policy Counsel;
  2. Hired Felice Lambermont as the Strategy's Project Manager ;
  3. Cultural Competency Training for LAO Staff and Lawyers is being developed and deliver of training sessions will begin in February 2009, over 50 staff at LAO's Provincial Office have had Cultural Awareness Training;
  4. LAO LAW has undergone an in-depth review of their on-line and in-house resources by Mtis Lawyer, Brenda Gunn. Memorandum available on-line at the lawyer's website have been updated and revised and will be available to lawyers accessing LAO LAW in the near future. Additionally LAO LAW will be hiring a Lawyer for a six month contract periodto fulfill the recommendations of the review ;
  5. Providing extension of legal aid certificate coverage for Gladue submission preparation is in technical and policy development;
  6. Creating the ability to identify Aboriginal Clients is in technical development;
  7. Increasing the accessibility of LAO information through pamphlets and other PLE is in development;
  8. LAO has created policy defining Aboriginal Services as a priority by incorporating these initiatives into the performance contracts of Executive and managerial staff.
  9. To increase the composition and capacity of the Aboriginal Issues Advisory Committee the Board of Directors is seeking applicants to the Committee. To see the posting please click here;
  10. Minimum panel standards regarding Aboriginal specific legal issues are in development
  11. Recruitment policy aimed at hiring Aboriginal people is in development;
  12. The Aboriginal Justice Strategy team is refining the 3 to 5 year strategic plan utilizing focussed consultation with existing Aboriginal participants and internal consultations with LAO staff. Throughout February to April, 2009, the Aboriginal Policy Counsel and Project Manager will be delivering Cultural Competency Training to LAO Staff in conjunction with focused consultations. Various LAO offices will be hosting open houses to provide Aboriginal people, organizations and agencies the opportunity to have an information exchange on services with LAO, receive an update on the Strategy, and to provide input and feedback on the development of the Strategy. Locations and venues will be available in the near future if you are interested in attending one offered in your area.

For more information, please feel free to contact:

Christa Big Canoe, Policy Counsel or
Felice Lambermont, Project Manager
Legal Aid Ontario
Atrium on Bay
40 Dundas Street West, Suite 200
Toronto, ON M5G 2H1