Access to justice is a fundamental Canadian value and is key to a fair and just society, and all Canadians must have the confidence that the justice system is there to protect them, not to harm them. Supporting Indigenous youth is important to meeting those goals as well as ending systemic racism and inequities throughout Canada’s justice system.
Today, the Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada announced the Government of Canada’s support to Ryerson University for its National Indigenous Courtworkers: Indigenous Youth-Centered Justice Project (IYJP). The goal of this project is to improve outcomes for Indigenous youth who are involved in both the child welfare and youth criminal justice system. In partnership with Indigenous Courtworkers in various parts of the country the IYJP will pilot innovative community-based projects over five years, in multiple jurisdictions.
The IYJP will conduct individual casework with Indigenous youth with both youth criminal justice and child welfare involvement. With the goal of reducing recidivism and the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in the youth and mainstream criminal justice systems, this work will promote healing, reparation and reintegration of Indigenous youth offenders. Funding for this project will help reduce or eliminate custody for Indigenous youth, reduce time spent in the youth criminal justice system, and prevent youth from moving to the adult system.
Indigenous courtworkers already play a critical role as a “bridge” between the justice system and Indigenous peoples. As a result, they are ideally situated to help bring the child welfare and youth justice systems together to support Indigenous youth. The Department of Justice is providing a total of nearly $2.5 million over five years, from 2021 to 2026, in financial support to this project through the Youth Justice Fund.
“Indigenous youth who need help often find themselves caught between the child welfare and criminal justice systems. The Indigenous Youth-Centred Justice Project is an innovative way to bridge this gap. Initiatives like this also help fight systemic racism and discrimination in our justice system. Every step we take to improve access to housing, mental health care, addictions treatment and youth employment is a step towards a fairer and safer society for all Canadians.”
The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., Q.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
“The Indigenous Youth-Centered Justice Project is a strong example of the power of partnership, and we look forward to working with Indigenous Courtworkers to seeing the project launched in additional provinces and territories. In partnership with the Indigenous Courtwork Program and with the financial support of the Department of Justice, our School of Child and Youth Care is making a difference in the lives of Indigenous youth navigating both the child welfare and youth justice systems.”
Dr. Mohamed Lachemi, President and Vice-Chancellor, Ryerson University
“Indigenous Courtworkers look forward to partnering with Toronto’s Ryerson University on the National Indigenous Courtworkers: Youth-Centered Justice Project. For nearly 50 years, Indigenous Courtworkers in 7 provinces and all territories have been supporting Indigenous people involved in the criminal justice system. We are pleased that Ryerson University has approached us to share our knowledge and experience in this project. Indigenous Courtworkers would like to acknowledge Dr. Judy Finlay of Ryerson University’s School of Child and Youth for recognizing the importance of Indigenous leadership on this project and for her commitment on behalf of young people across Canada. We also would like to thank Minister Lametti for supporting and approving the funding for this project.”
Indigenous Courtwork Directors’ IYJP Steering Committee
The Department of Justice Canada’s Youth Justice Fund is designed to encourage a more effective youth justice system, respond to emerging youth justice issues and enable greater citizen and community participation in the youth justice system.
With an annual budget of $4.5 million, the Youth Justice Fund supports projects that advance critical priorities such as reducing the rate of incarceration amongst young Indigenous Canadians.
In January 2021, the Government of Canada committed to developing, in consultation and cooperation with provinces, territories and Indigenous partners, an Indigenous Justice Strategy to address systemic discrimination and the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the justice system.