Report of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry of Manitoba
Terms of Reference
Introduction to Section Four
Crime Prevention through
The previous section of this report addressed the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry recommendations that focussed on reforming the justice system in Manitoba. The AJI recommendations provide the framework for a community-based, restorative justice system. Action on those recommendations will improve the efficiency and legitimacy of the justice system. However, while such reforms are necessary, they are not sufficient to end Aboriginal overrepresentation in the justice system. The roots of overrepresentation are not found only in the justice system, but in the broader social setting, and will require concerted action from all three levels government in Canada.
There is much that is wrong with the way the justice system treats Aboriginal people. Involving more Aboriginal people and communities in that system, and moving that system from its current focus on punishment towards a restoration of social balance will make a difference. But it will not bring to an end the problems that Aboriginal communities have with crime. Aboriginal people are not only overrepresented as offenders in the justice system, they are overrepresented as victims. A long-term goal must be to reduce the victimization of Aboriginal people. This means a greater focus on crime prevention measures in Aboriginal communities. Crime prevention requires commitment to improve a wide range of social factors, to
focus on the roots of social disorganization rather than on the symptoms of that disorganization, and to nurture and strengthen families, young people, and communities.
The justice system is reactive. The changes proposed in this section are preventive. They build on people's strengths and encourage community building. And, at the same time, they recognize that Aboriginal people who are at risk of becoming involved in crime often face multiple problems: racism, domestic violence, community violence, poor access to health care and education, inadequate housing, and limited employment options. These problems generate hostility, stress, and demoralization, and can lead to criminal behaviour. A successful crime prevention approach will address all these issues in a coordinated
The Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission has adopted a broad view of crime prevention. On one level, crime prevention involves reducing the number of opportunities for crime to take place. This is often referred to as situational prevention, since it addresses specific situations. It can include community patrols, security systems, and the engraving of social insurance numbers on property. These are all measures that make crime targets less vulnerable. These strategies have most of their impact on preventing property crime, not crimes of violence.
The federal government has adopted a "safer communities" approach to crime prevention. In response to the 1993 Report of the Standing Committee on Justice and the Solicitor General, the federal government established the National Strategy on Crime Prevention and Community Safety. As part of this strategy, the government is funding the National Crime Prevention Centre (NCPC). The NCPC has supported hundreds of crime prevention programs across the country, including community-based solutions to problems that contribute to the victimization of Aboriginal persons.
Other crime prevention strategies seek to reduce the number of offenders, through a greater focus on community and social development. These programs focus on early childhood education, parental skills training, and youth employment. Because the problems are multi-faceted, strategies to reduce crime must also be multidisciplinary and well coordinated. It will require significant policy attention in the areas of education, child welfare, childcare, housing, health care, employment standards, and economic development. It will also involve considerable community input--indeed, these policies cannot succeed in the long run if they do not result in the creation of strong families in strong communities.
Social development programs can reduce the number of offenders in society by addressing those factors that put a person at risk of becoming an offender. These programs address home and family life, education, training, employment, housing, and recreation. These programs are often targetted toward young people because:
Early childhood experiences play a significant role in determining adult behaviour.
Young people 15-19 are the group at greatest risk for committing crime.
Most adult criminals began their criminal careers as youth.
Young people may be most amenable to intervention.
Those who are at the greatest risk face the greatest number of risks. To have an impact, the social development programs must be substantial. They must address the young person's specific needs and the person's environment (parents, schools, community). Short-term programs have, it appears, only short-term impacts.
The next three chapters look at three crucial elements in a long-term crime prevention strategy: the need for strong families, for strong, confident young people, and for strong communities. While the focus is on young people because there is clear evidence that money spent on early years' education decreases the likelihood of a person's coming into conflict with the law, the AJIC recognizes that families, young people, and community are all interconnected. For example, while this report discusses employment and income policies under the heading of "community", the AJIC recognizes that decent incomes and secure jobs take the stress off families and provide young people with better home lives. In short, in order to raise young people who are going to have the skills and abilities and life choices that steer them away from conflict with the law, we need to look at those factors that affect child development. These are the family, the school, and the community.
The AJIC has the following over-arching goals for each of the following chapters.
Strengthening families involves:
promoting healthy babies
improving parenting skills
increasing family cohesion
preventing child abuse and neglect
reducing aggressive behaviours
enhancing children's intellectual and social development
Strengthening young people involves:
providing support and guidance to vulnerable adolescents
providing educational programs that keep young people at risk in the school system
assisting young people who are at risk to successfully make the transition from school to work
improving school outcomes and fostering pro-social behaviour
increasing social skills and reducing aggressive behaviour
preventing youth homelessness
Strengthening communities involves:
developing income policies that ensure that children grow up in families that can meet their developmental needs
developing employment policies that provide meaningful work at wages that ensure that children grow up in families that can meet their developmental needs
developing policies that reduce social inequality
Research indicates that these policies will be most effective if they are implemented on the basis of the following principles:
|Programs should address the needs of the child, the family and the community.
|Programs must actively reach out to ensure that all targetted families have the ability to participate.
|Programs must target children who are at risk of coming into conflict with the justice system.
|Programs should bring together social service, education, and health care services.
|The design, allocation, and delivery of programs should rest with community authorities.
|There should be provincial standards of practice.
|Evaluation is an important component of crime prevention programming and must be encouraged in a provincial strategy. There must be ways of ensuring that funds go to services.
These principles should be borne in mind as a part of any community development, crime prevention strategy.
Aboriginal organizations are well aware of the need for action in these areas. They are also aware of the fact that previous efforts in these areas have failed to achieve their goals, or have hurt, rather than assisted, Aboriginal communities because they were controlled and administrated by non-Aboriginal agencies, their impacts were diffused due to the existence of multiple agencies, they were underfunded, or they became enmeshed in inter-jurisdictional conflicts. These problems remain and are best resolved by ensuring that these initiatives are properly resourced, and support Aboriginal communities in developing, controlling, and delivering adequate and appropriate services to their own people.