Three easy ways to access legal information and services

For many of us, the thought of dealing with the legal system, even on a routine matter, is enough to cause stress and fear. It’s easy to understand why: the institutions are intimidating, and the legal process can be full of confusing rules and obscure technical terms.

The Government of Alberta recognizes this problem, and has had a longstanding commitment to providing Albertans with access to the legal information and the resolution services they need, when they need them.

There are three ways you can access this information: call, click, or come in.

Call
You can phone the Resolution and Court Administration Contact Centre at 1-855-738-4747 from anywhere in the province to listen to pre-recorded information on such topics as court locations, jury duty and courtroom hours, or speak to advisors about details more specific to your case.

Click
The Resolution and Court Administration Services website, part of the rights, justice and the law section on alberta.ca, also contains useful information about a variety of legal topics, including step-by-step instructions for finding legal representation, appealing decisions, setting up guardianships, initiating divorce proceedings and filing restraining orders. All of the content on the site has been written with an eye towards using plain language that requires no specialized familiarity with the law in order to be understood. The site also provides links to download any necessary forms.

Come In
For those living in the Capital Region, the Resolution Support Centre in Edmonton’s John E. Brownlee Building (8th floor, 10365-97 Street) offers a single, in-person point of contact for accessing a range of legal and resolution services, including mediation programs and other dispute resolution services that can provide an increasingly popular and lest costly alternative to the expensive courtroom process. Information on how to access Resolution Services in other locations throughout the province is available online. In 2016 alone, a total of 5,260 mediations were conducted through the Government of Alberta’s civil, family and child support mediation and dispute resolution programs. The Support Centre also features self-service kiosks that help users access and fill out court forms and documents.

Whether you reach us by phone, on-line or in person, on a laptop, a tablet or a cellphone, our goal is to assist you with clear, readable, relevant legal information.

 

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One year out from federal cannabis legalization – 30,000 Albertans have already had their say. Have you?

DBVFw47UMAEq6VgOn April 13, 2017, the Government of Canada introduced legislation to legalize, regulate and restrict access to cannabis – Bill C-45 Cannabis Act. It is anticipated to come in to effect in July of 2018. While the proposed federal legislation paves the way for legal cannabis use by adults across Canada, provinces and municipalities must build on this to best suit the needs of their citizens.

Alberta has many decisions to make about what legalization looks like in our province. This includes how and where it will be sold, how workplaces and roads can be kept safe, and where people will be able to use cannabis, among other things.

To help inform these decisions, and an Alberta Cannabis Framework, all Albertans are invited to have their say via an online survey. Since the survey was launched June 2, 2017, more than 30,000 Albertans have already shared their thoughts.  There are other ways to get involved, too. We’re accepting written submissions until July 31, 2017, as well as encouraging Albertans to openly discuss cannabis legalization with their family, friends, neighbours and coworkers with our Conversation Toolkit.

All public feedback, combined with input from stakeholders and experts, will help inform the provincial framework for cannabis legalization. A draft of the framework is expected to be released for further input and refinement this fall allowing Albertans another opportunity to have their say and provide feedback.

There’s significant work being done over the next year, and with the input of Albertans, we’re committed to creating a plan that promotes public health and safety, limits the illegal cannabis market, and protects Alberta’s youth.

Get informed. Host a conversation. Take the survey.

Alberta.ca/cannabis

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Scholarships available for graduate studies in human rights and multiculturalism

hr_educationFundEvery year, the Alberta Human Rights Commission, in conjunction with Student Aid Alberta, offers two important scholarships. The deadline to apply, February 1, is fast approaching.

The Alberta Award for the Study of Canadian Human Rights and Multiculturalism is worth $10,000 at the master’s level and $15,000 at the doctoral level. The awards are available to graduate students in any faculty as long as they are pursuing studies that explore and support human rights, cultural diversity or multicultural questions in Canada. These studies help move Alberta forward by promoting informed thinking and building capacity to undertake human rights or multicultural work.

ahrccLogoHere’s a look at last year’s winners. Krista McFadyen, the recipient of the $15,000 award in 2016, is examining how the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples can contribute to society and politics. Ultimately, her study will better enable community organizations to engage diverse audiences on human rights matters and positive race-relations.

Mateo Huezo, who won the $10,000 award last year (also known as the Pardeep Singh Gundara Memorial Award), is studying how transgender communities are supporting transgender people. The internet and other mediums will be used to make the findings available and accessible.

For more information about the awards, visit the Alberta Human Rights Commission’s website at https://www.albertahumanrights.ab.ca/education/awards/Pages/alberta_award.aspx

The application can be downloaded from the Student Aid Alberta website at http://studentaid.alberta.ca/scholarships/alberta-scholarships/?SK=246.

If you require further information, please contact the Student Aid Alberta Service Centre at 1-855-606-2096.

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Statement from Minister of Justice and Solicitor General on RCMP Deputy Commissioner Marianne Ryan’s retirement

marrianne-ryanl-4x6With the announcement of RCMP Deputy Commissioner Marianne Ryan’s pending retirement on March 3, I would like to thank her, on behalf of all Albertans, for her service.

The RCMP has a long and proud history as Alberta’s provincial police service, and it is a crucial partner in keeping Albertans safe.

During her three years as commander of K Division, D/Commr. Ryan has upheld the RCMP’s legacy of excellence in Alberta, while shaping it into a modern, progressive and diverse organization. In 2016, D/Commr. Ryan presided over a historic milestone when she raised the Pride flag at K Division headquarters in Edmonton for the first time. Under her command, the RCMP also played a key role in ensuring tens of thousands of people escaped the wildfire that devastated Fort McMurray in May 2016 and oversaw their orderly return when recovery efforts began. In her tenure as president of the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police, D/Commr. Ryan provided a strong link between Alberta Justice and Solicitor General and the province’s law enforcement agencies, furthering our shared mission to serve and protect Albertans.

Before she was appointed commanding officer, D/Commr. Ryan was K Division’s Criminal Operations Officer, a role in which she held the primary responsibility for all operational policing under the RCMP’s jurisdiction in Alberta, ranging from federal functions such as drug enforcement and national security, to major crime investigations and local policing at the detachment level.

In her 35 years with the RCMP, many Canadians outside of Alberta also benefited from D/Commr. Ryan’s commitment to strengthening the foundation of trust, respect and compassion in communities served by the RCMP. In total, she served in three provinces and spent several years leading units responsible for investigating organized crime and gang activity.

I have greatly appreciated the open and accessible relationship I have developed with D/Commr. Ryan during our time working together. I congratulate D/Commr. Ryan on an exemplary career in which she led by example, including her leadership as a woman rising through the policing ranks, and I wish her all the best in her retirement.

Kathleen Ganley
Minister of Justice and Solicitor General

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Building safe and resilient communities with restorative justice

To the teenagers who did it, it seemed like a harmless prank: lighting some firecrackers and placing them in the mailbox of a randomly-chosen house, ringing the doorbell, then running and hiding across the way to watch what happened next.

What the boys who planted the firecrackers didn’t know at the time is the house they chose belonged to an elderly couple, and that the man had heart problems that could have been triggered by the sudden explosions outside their front door.

The boys also didn’t know – until they met with the victims through a restorative justice program administered by the Medicine Hat John Howard Society – that the elderly couple had also been living in fear, thinking they had been targeted for some reason.

The Medicine Hat Police Service had initially charged the boys with mischief, but the case was diverted to the local youth justice committee instead of going to court. By taking part in the restorative justice process, the boys realized the harm they had caused after the victims had a chance to tell their story. The victims came away reassured, after learning from the boys that they weren’t targeted.

“The kids experienced remorse, but more importantly, the elderly couple regained their sense of safety,” said Gary Straub, executive director of the Medicine Hat John Howard Society.

The Medicine Hat John Howard Society is one of many organizations in the province that receive funding from Alberta Justice and Solicitor General to deliver restorative justice programs. Restorative justice holds offenders accountable for their actions while at the same time giving victims and the community a voice in the criminal justice process.

“There are two things I often hear from victims: They want to know, ‘Why me?’ The second is that they want an apology. In the traditional justice system, there’s little opportunity for a victim to speak with an offender, not at an offender.”

Restorative justice principles are enshrined in Canada’s youth justice system. The Youth Criminal Justice Act authorizes the establishment of youth justice committees comprised of community members as an alternative to youth court. To be eligible the young person must accept responsibility for the offence and the Crown prosecutor has to agree the accused can be held properly accountable for their actions through an extrajudicial sanction.

In Medicine Hat, more than 1,000 youths have been referred to the Restorative Justice Project since its inception in 2006.

“Very few have been referred a second time,” said Straub, touching on one of the key impacts of the restorative justice processes:  they aim to prevent young people from re-offending.

Referring cases to youth justice committees also eases the burden on the justice system by diverting cases that don’t necessarily need to be heard in court and don’t require a court-imposed sentence. Youth justice committees have the flexibility to apply a wide range of sanctions tailored to helping a young person recognize the harm they’ve caused, while holding them accountable for their actions.

“The goal was to be able to have some latitude, to think outside the usual processes and strive to achieve meaningful consequences,” Straub said.

Sanction options available to the committee include community service, completing a written assignment or interview related to the offence, participating in community-based activities and taking classes.

Programs and classes give youths a positive alternative to the activities that landed them in trouble, while community service can strengthen their sense of empathy. Gaining a better understanding of how others feel, said Straub, is a big step toward preventing young people from reoffending.

“Sometimes the exercise is trying to plant that seed: to engage that young person in pro-social citizenry,” he said.

“These are beautiful, wonderful people who do good things, when given the opportunity to do good things.”

Communities across Canada and around the world are marking Restorative Justice Week from November 20 to 27.

 

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