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Shofar FTP Archive File: orgs/canadian/canada/justice/ethnocultural-groups/ecg-013-01

Archive/File: orgs/canadian/canada/justice/ethnocultural-groups/ecg-013-01
Last-Modified: 1997/01/29
Source: Department of Justice Canada

13.3.2 Ignorance about Different Cultural Contexts

Both the MARC study of perceptions on justice issues of
ethnic group organizations and the Etherington literature
review show that ignorance of the cultural aspects of ethnic
groups that relate to the justice problems faced by those
groups is common among justice system actors. This is true
for all actors in the criminal justice system, in family
courts, and in regulatory bureaucracies. The issue is
extremely important given the concern of treating members of
minorities with sensitivity within the justice system that
was expressed repeatedly in interviews with representatives
of ethnocultural organizations.

The need for cross-cultural sensitivity training at all
levels and in all sectors of the criminal and civil justice
systems is clear. Extensive training is already provided to
police and to the judiciary, but questions have been raised
about the adequacy and effectiveness of current sensitivity
training for them. A first step in this effort must be to
review the effectiveness of approaches to existing training.
The field of adult education has a well-established body of
theory, method and considerable accumulated experience that
would be highly valuable in this effort. An assessment of
existing programs should be carried out on the basis of this
body of knowledge.

As well, there must be some assessment of the current
coverage of existing programs. A plan to extend the scope of
cross-cultural training to the police and to the judiciary
should be developed. This effort should be carried out in
close collaboration with ethnocultural groups and the
professional associations representing justice system

The cross-cultural training must go beyond assumptions about
negative attitudes held by justice system personnel and
attempt to bring about attitude change at a general level.
As emphasized in the previous section, much of the unequal
treatment experienced in the justice system by members of
minority groups may stem from systemic factors, which are
otherwise neutral characteristics of all persons. Unequal
treatment may stem from the fact that the normal assumptions
and processes of the justice system simply do not fit the
realities of life of many members of minority groups. As
well, it would be difficult to slow down or divert the usual
frenetic pace of operation in the overcrowded system to
accommodate the special needs of certain members of

Therefore, research and related efforts to uncover the
extent and the processes recommended in Chapter Four should
form an important part of the substantive basis for
sensitivity training. This would make the factors and
processes producing systemic discrimination more transparent
to those in positions to control the process, and thus make
change more likely. As well, to the extent that ignorance
can itself be the basis for prejudice,<336> the cross-
cultural training would attack some of the roots of direct

13.3.3 Representation of Minorities as Justice System Actors

It would seem from all reports that the face of the justice
system is white. There is a need to recruit members of
minority groups into all aspects of the justice system, into
positions that place them in contact with the public, and in
positions where they are instrumental in decision-making
processes within organizations. This  refers not only to
recruitment to the legal profession but to all occupations
within the justice system.

Until recently, the emphasis in terms of representation of
minorities has been on the criminal justice system. However,
some of the background research for this report shows that
contact with the administrative bureaucracies of the non-
criminal justice system are considerably more frequent that
contacts with the criminal justice system. Thus, efforts at
assuring equitable representation are at least as important
within this sector of the Canadian justice system.

Within occupations and professions other than the legal
profession, equitable representation can probably be
accomplished through employment equity programs. In-house
training programs could operate effectively as adjuncts to
these programs. The limitations on recruitment of non-legal
professionals that might arise from lack of access to
university or other professional training is not known.

Access to the legal profession is obviously limited by the
accessibility of legal training. At present, there is
serious under-representation of visible minorities in the
legal profession in Canada. Although research by the
Department of Justice Canada shows that minority students
are not under-represented in the 10 law schools included in
the study,<337> there was perceived inappropriateness or
irrelevance of curriculum for minority students.

The legal profession, which is largely self-governing, is an
important and influential profession in Canadian society. As
such, the profession should assume some responsibility for
encouraging the adoption of the values of a multicultural
society within the justice system. The legal profession
should be encouraged and supported in its efforts to recruit
members of minority groups to the profession, to make legal
education relevant to minority students and to ethnocultural
issues, and to encourage full participation and mobility
within the profession.

13.3.4 Involving Ethnic Communities in the Justice Process

The marginalization of minorities is the norm. In her
discussion of how minorities are included or excluded from
the justice system, Minow<338> describes mechanisms by which
the majority creates social institutions, and because the
majority constructs the rules and the structures according
to its own values and preferences, it creates differences
between the majority and minorities. With the operation of
normal ethnocentricity, these differences translate into
disapproval of minority values and behaviour patterns. The
rules and processes on how things are done in the system
reflect the values of the dominant group. An "in-group" and
an "out-group," a "we" and a "them" are created and the
minority group becomes marginalized within the institution
of justice.

Accessibility and full participation by ethnocultural
communities in the justice system are important objectives.
It is widely acknowledged that the justice system is poorly
equipped to address the important underlying social,
cultural, and economic dimensions of problems faced by the
police, the courts, and administrative bodies as crime
problems or legal problems per se. It is difficult,
therefore, for the justice system to deal effectively with
many of the problems laid before it, and moreover to develop
effective and durable solutions.

A society which depends solely on the constructs of its
criminal justice system as a means of maintaining social
order will be a society riddled with crime. Unwieldy
administrations have never been, nor should they ever
become, substitutes for the pervasive socializing influences
of family, religion, and community groups. Wherever the
social and moral foundation of a community group has been
undermined_as in the case of Australian aboriginal
people_the foundation has been almost impossible to
reconstruct. <339>

One argument made in this report is that ethnic communities
are products of the necessity to adapt to life in the new
society. They are not holdovers from the past, but rather,
integral parts, albeit transitional for some group members
of Canadian society. Ethnic communities have a vitality and
the resources which are their sources of strength. They have
important potential resources for dealing with problems of
adjustment to Canadian society which involve conflict with
the law or access to justice.

In all aspects where the justice system attempts to deal
with justice problems involving ethnocultural communities,
the relevant sector of the justice system should establish
linkages with the communities to use their resources and
strengths to develop effective responses and durable
solutions together. The justice system and society as a
whole can, through these linkages which establish
partnerships between the justice system and communities,
support the viability of ethnic communities and thus support
the existence of an important resource for dealing with
justice problems  -- the community itself. Ghettoization and
marginalization of ethnocultural communities can be avoided
if the linkages are true partnerships. The value of ethnic
diversity and viable ethnic communities is thus reaffirmed
in ways which are reflected not only at the level of
rhetoric but in matters of consequence for the ethnic
communities and for Canadian society as a whole.

Through such partnerships, communities will have a greater
opportunity to define problems of concern to them and to
influence the programs and strategies developed to deal with
them. It is more likely that holistic and multi-
institutional approaches will be developed in this kind of
context. This can contribute significantly to the maturing
of the entire justice system in Canada as it proceeds into
the next century, developing the necessary tools and
approaches (as it has already begun to do with initiatives
like community policing) to deal with a more complex and
diverse society, and which will place greater demands for
accountability and results on the justice system.

Action-oriented experimental projects and program changes
should be initiated to promote justice system and community
linkages. Developmental research, monitoring, and evaluation
should be an integral part of all experimental projects so
that gains in accumulated knowledge are not lost. Since such
projects may occur across a wide spectrum of criminal family
law and administrative law, involving many justice issues
and many communities, some mechanism for coordination of the
research and knowledge transfer should be put in place. The
Department of Justice Canada, in cooperation with other
federal departments and provincial governments, should take
the lead in spearheading research and development in this
area, and coordinate research and development activities
with other jurisdictions in Canada. There is a real danger
that many multicultural and justice projects will proceed
without adequate documentation and evaluation. Thus, over a
period of years, an immensely valuable body of knowledge and
accumulated experience can be lost. The experience of the
Department of Justice Canada in compiling an inventory of
aboriginal justice projects and research beginning in
1990<340> has highlighted this problem in the native justice
area. Many native justice projects carried out over the past
decade were discontinued for various reasons, and the
lessons learned have been lost. This should not be repeated.

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