Our Society: Access to Justice

The justice system belongs to all of us. I believe it is a critical part of a healthy democracy because it can help ensure that our laws are just and that government decision making is fair. I believe every person should have confidence that the justice system is accessible and fair.

I have spent over a decade working throughout the NWT justice system in criminal law, child protection, civil litigation and other court processes. I was part of the steering committees that developed the Domestic Violence Treatment Option Court and the Wellness Court that works with individuals experiencing mental health issues or addictions. In both cases I saw first hand that it is efficient and effective to engage multi-department collaboration from an early stage of program design.

Not only have I worked in different aspects of the court system, I have also long been involved supporting the work of the NWT Status of Women and Victim Services. I have an understanding of how the system works both from the inside and how it impacts our community. Efforts to build a more trusted, comprehensible and approachable justice system will need input and support from all of those who work in the justice system, from police to corrections, as well as members of the community who are in contact with that system. I believe the NWT should strive to be a leader in improving the effectiveness of and trust in the justice system.

Key progress I want to see in our justice system includes:

  • Respond to Causes of Crime: Commit to inter-departmental and non-government collaboration to reduce the prevalence of mental illness or social need as underlying causes of crime. Support front line personnel in corrections to be drivers of positive change.
  • Restorative Justice: Be leaders in the development of restorative approaches in all areas of the legal system that are trauma-informed and designed by the participants. Engage communities to be the drivers of change so that justice initiatives respond to the needs and strengths of each community.

I have also worked as a decision maker in the justice system as an appointed member to both the Income Appeals Assistance Committee and the Legal Aid Commission. These kinds of oversight bodies, including for example the Student Financial Appeals Committee, are a key point of interaction for many people with the justice system. Sometimes these bodies have only a narrow discretion to apply regulations as written rather than look at the purpose or objective of their legislation – such as ensuring financial assistance options for students are accessible or providing fair access to reasonable income support.

One way to provide better oversight to the provision of government programs and services:

  • Empower administrative decision-markers with discretion to hear appeals about government programs and services that ensure the application of rules and policy best meets the objective and purpose of the program or service at issue.

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