Access to justice is a fundamental Canadian value and an integral part of a fair and just society based on the rule of law. To that end Government of Canada announced a program that will provide financial support for a project from DESTA Black Youth Network that offers access to a hub of services, partnerships and legal information and resources to empower local Black communities in Montréal through programs rooted in social and economic justice.
The announcement was made by Minister of Justice and Attorney General David Lametti and Marc Miller, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations in response to these telling statistics:
– In 2020-21, Black adults (aged 12 – 18 years and more), who represented approximately 6% of the adult population in Canada, were consistently overrepresented in provincial admissions to correctional services (custody and community services) across reporting jurisdictions, namely Nova Scotia, Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia.
Through its A Social Justice Approach to Reintegration project, DESTA will expand their existing “Re-Entry” program to further support the re-integration of Black individuals from custody to the community. A legal component will be added to the program to meet the intricate legal needs of its participants in relation to community reintegration. The project will also develop a
“Know Your Rights” campaign to promote legal knowledge and empower community members with resources they need to better navigate the criminal justice system. This campaign will help participants who are either in custody, re-integrating into society, and/or families directly affected by such circumstances.
Justice Canada is providing $278,560 over two years (2022-23 to 2023-24) through the Justice Partnership and Innovation Program.
“We are committed to fighting systemic anti-Black racism and discrimination, which continue to be painful realities for Black communities across the country,” said Minister Lametti.
“Central to this is developing Canada’s Black Justice Strategy in consultation and cooperation with Black communities, provinces and territories to help address this truth and the overrepresentation in the criminal justice system. By providing support to DESTA Black Youth Network, we are helping bring systemic changeand improving access to justice and fairness in our justice system.”
“Our government will always remain committed to social and economic justice, while being allies for change in ensuring Black communities are supported, within their community,” added Minister Miller,
“That is why this funding being provided to DESTA Black Youth Network will have a positive impact for Black community members who were previously incarcerated, and provide them with the resources they need, for their reintegration.”
Speaking on behalf of DESTA, Kassandra Kernisan said: “On behalf of DESTA, we say thank you to the Government of Canada for supporting our organization in doing this extremely important work. The statistics speak very clearly … There are 70% more Black Canadians in Federal Prison than there were 15 years ago and while Black Canadians make up only 3% of the population, they account for 10% of the prison population. With these funds we will strengthen and expand our re-entry support services for those coming out of incarceration, while also increasing public awareness on legal obstacles facing the Black community and advocating for a more just system.”
In the Federal 2021 budget, $21.5 million is allocated over five years to support the provision of culturally appropriate legal information and resources and to pilot legal advice services for racialized communities across Canada. This is intended to support organizations that provide free public legal education and information as well as organizations that provide legal services and advice to racialized communities.
In 2022 $85 million will be provided over four years, starting in 2022-23, to the Department of Canadian Heritage to support the work underway to launch a new Anti-Racism Strategy and National Action Plan on Combatting Hate. The funds will support community projects that ensure that Black and racialized communities and religious minorities have access to resources that support their full participation in the Canadian economy, while also raising awareness of issues related to racism and hate in Canada.