The Native Courtworker and Counselling Association of British Columbia

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The Native Courtworker and Counselling Association of British Columbia

By: Lforsythe
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The Native Courtworker and Counselling Association of British Columbia (NCCABC) provides culturally appropriate services to aboriginal people and communities consistent with their needs. The service is accomplished through access to counselling and referral services to clients with substance abuse and detox support issues; advocacy services for aboriginal family and youth; facilitating and enhancing access to justice by assisting clients involved in the criminal justice system; provides services to Vancouver community court; providing community outreach; networking and partnerships; advocacy services; and providing training and workshops.

Presently:

Native Courtworker program has been in existence in Canada in some form for over thirty-eight years.

Historically:

In the late 1960’s, the Department of Indian Affairs, Health and Welfare, Employment and Immigration and Secretary of State provided helped to fund the Native Courtworker pilot project. In 1973, responsibility for the program at the federal level was assigned to the Department of Justice and was established on an ongoing basis in 1977.

Our Founding Agencies:

In British Columbia, the Vancouver Indian Friendship Centre, Indian Homemaker’s Association, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, BC Association of Non-Status Indians, North American Indian Brotherhood and the John Howard Society, decided then to start a Courtworker program. Under the management of the John Howard Society, a Courtworker pilot project was initiated in 1970. By 1972 the project expanded to become the Native Courtworker Association. In 1973, it had added counseling as a service and became the Native Courtworker and Counselling Association of British Columbia. (NCCABC)

Base Foundation of Service:

The NCCABC is a provincial organization with a thirty- eight year history of providing services to aboriginal peoples in conflict with the law. Over fifty staff is employed, with twenty seven of these are Courtworkers. Native Courtworkers cover 74% of the courthouses throughout the province.

Programs:

The NCCABC developed Detox Support, Alcohol and Drug counseling, Family Advocates, Elders Support Services (based in Vancouver), family advocates, and administrative personnel and senior management staff.

Governance:

The NCCABC Board of Directors operates with two main committees: an executive committee, which is responsible for policies, personnel and providing direction to the management team, and the finance committee.

The Board of Directors is community-elected in thirteen regions throughout the province, serving four year terms and function primarily as a “policy board”. The Executive Director is responsible for the operations of the association and its activities.

Native Courtworker and Counselling Association Overview:

The Native Courtworker and Counselling Association of BC (NCCABC) became incorporated on July 26, 1973. NCCABC’s mission is to provide assistance to Aboriginal people in conflict with the law and ensures they participate fully in the justice system through a holistic approach to prevention and intervention.

NCCABC offers a comprehensive range of services including:

  • To provide counselling service to Aboriginal people who are in conflict with the law
  • To provide information and advise concerning rights and responsibilities as Aboriginals
  • To provide for the benefit of Aboriginal people information and advise centers in various locations in the province
  • To develop prevention programs
  • To provide counselling and referral services to victims of crime and substance abuse

It is NCCABC’s belief that a successful strategy for service must be client-centered, community based and a safe place for Aboriginal people. The service must reflect a culturally appropriate design and operation to reduce addictions, restore health, and reduce harm to the community. Individual client-centered case management is the method used to coordinate strategies. Board members represent Aboriginal communities throughout the province, and continue to encourage communities to take an active role.

The Association employs and trains Aboriginal people in all areas of the law because it believes:

  • Aboriginal people have unique problems related to the justice system, and only Aboriginals can devise true and lasting solutions to these problems
  • the scope of Aboriginal responsibility for solving problems must not be limited by government
  • unless the problem is addressed with a preventative direction, it will only increase
  • in order to achieve the results for the dollars spent, there must be sound planning and management based on a clear understanding of the problem, factual information, and a clear assessment of needs
  • people who design and implement the programs must be accountable to the Aboriginal community

The Association’s goals include:

  • to achieve success, the Association must consistently strive to improve the profile, credibility and public image to both the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities
  • to have clearly defined priorities for the Association which are culturally based and to increase funding to provide appropriate staffing, effective management and clear leadership
  • to develop and maintain a strong working relationship with other organizations to ensure the NCCABC is providing a complementary service to Aboriginal people
  • ensure that both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people are educated in the history of Aboriginal people and the involvement of the Aboriginal community within the justice system
  • to provide ongoing culturally based and accredited training, ensuring that the Association has staff, management and Board of Directors who can successfully meet the objectives of the Association.

Organization Portfolio:

The Native Courtworker and Counselling Association of BC s portfolio include:

  • Crime prevention enhancement and development;
  • Law enforcement liaison/referral;
  • Adult custody and community corrections liaison/referral;
  • Restorative justice liaison/referral;
  • Victim services liaison/referral;
  • Addressing violence against women that includes public safety;
  • Family violence emergency prevention, preparedness, response and reconciliation
  • Elder safety and property protection;
  • BC Coroners Service liaison
  • Public Safety and Health

Population Served:

There are approximately 210,000. First Nations, Aboriginal, Métis, Inuit in Rural and Urban communities throughout British Columbia, some are seasonal transients others are from other provinces from across Canada and the United States.

The NCCABC provide services, referral and support and communicate with the 200 First Nations Bands and 800 First Nations, Aboriginal, Métis and Inuit Non-for- Profit Service Agencies throughout British Columbia.

NCCABC Guiding Act’s

  • Criminal Code of Canada
  • Work Safe BC
  • Freedom of Information Act
  • Corrections and Conditional Release Act
  • BC Benefits and Income Act
  • Child, Family and Community Services Act
  • Mental Health Act
  • Labor Relations Act

Current Status:

The most frequently expressed problem facing aboriginal people is poverty and homelessness. In the Lower Mainland area, which makes up 40% of the association’s client base, has the highest reported percentage (95%) of clients who are on social assistance or having no income. The other three regions, Northern Interior/North Coast, Southern Interior, and South Coast, stand equally at 20% of the BC client base. In British Columbia, NCCABC clients make up 18% of the population being processed through the judicial systems.

The NCCABC regionalized the province we would like to offer a regional office in the most remote areas thereby offering NCCABC service to all communities.

Tri-partite Working Group:

A tripartite working group has been established by the Department of Justice to assist in addressing issues concerning the Native Courtworker program. This working group is made up of carrier agency’s representatives, provincial government and federal government personnel. The issues addressed by the committee may include, but are not limited to, funding; eligibility; program delivery; training, cross-jurisdictional issues and data collection. The tripartite working group shares information relating to developments or innovations in various jurisdictions and discuss various reforms or studies related to the Native Courtworker program.

Funding:

Funding is a key element in improvin

g the justice system’s accessibility, quality and service. The NCCABC believes significant improvement can be made with more funding and human resources, to better service aboriginal communities.

As the province of British Columbia and the federal government move towards alternative sentencing practices, this will open the door with respect to asserting self-governance and aboriginal justice to first nation’s people and communities. It is our position that the association can assist first nation’s communities with promote and facilitate with Justice committees in the development of Aboriginal Justice programs and working toward Public Safety and Healthier communities throughout BC and across Canada.

Conclusion:

The evolution in the work of native Courtworkers does not signal an abandonment of the important, traditional court-based role, but rather recognition of the need to take on other complimentary functions. The April 23, 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision in R v. Gladue provides an example of the Courtworkers expanding role. In its interpretation of s.718.2(e) of the Criminal Code of Canada, the Supreme Court found that judges, in determining appropriate sentences for aboriginal offenders may consider the systemic and background factors affecting aboriginal people.

NCCABC has the knowledge and expertise of the criminal, family, youth court processes, as well as corrections and alcohol and drug counselling, and is well placed to fill that role.

 

Correctional Service Canada has a great video about careers in health care with the CSC.

Initially published 2012-08-08.

Posted on May 19, 2014