Means building relationships with diverse communities in order to better understand their unique justice needs.
We know that this requires more than focus groups, town halls or surveys. It requires justice system players and the public to exist in a space where everyone feels their voice is being heard. Engaging with the public is an intentional process whereby the feedback received is not merely listened to, but heard and cared for in a way that steers conversations toward solutions.
When citizens are engaged to work and learn together on behalf of their communities-- we can then, as a collective, create and realize bold visions for the future. Conversations about justice are often complex and compounded by a a multitude of intersecting factors that impact peoples' experiences. By consulting directly with equity-seeking and economically disadvantaged groups throughout the province, we are recognizing the importance of amplifying the voices of those who are often excluded from dialogue. This work must acknowledge the ways in which race, class, gender, sexual orientation, age and religion impact peoples' lived experiences.
The process of engagement is highly relational. #TalkJustice represents a different approach to community engagement among lawyers, legal system professionals and community stakeholders on access to justice issues. This forward thinking and innovative framework ensures that the feedback that we are hearing is informing the changes ahead while empowering those involved to work together and initiate action. This process is sincere (intention: to listen and incorporate public feedback; not merely to say we have completed an engagement process), substantive (methodology: the project method does not follow a template verbatim; it is tailored to circumstance), and sustained (long-term planning: this project is not a discrete step with a beginning and an end, its goal is to lay a foundation for the creation of a new relationship between the public and its justice system).
Past Community Engagements
When we asked Nova Scotians about their experiences with the justice system during the first phase of #TalkJustice, they spoke in stories. They rarely spoke of ideas for program improvement or how individual bodies within the justice system could offer their services better. They told stories about the ways in which the system failed to treat them with mutual respect, concern and dignity. These recurring themes show a disconnect between the justice system and the people it impacts. For community engagement efforts to be lasting and effective, they must focus on establishing and maintaining relationships between members of the public and practitioners in the justice system.
September 12, 2016: Halifax Law Courts
September 14, 2016: Mi'Kmaw Native Friendship Center
The Power of Our Voices - Survivors and Justice System Professionals Together
June 1, 2016: Be The Peace Institute Bridgewater