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Shofar FTP Archive File: orgs/canadian/canada/justice/ethnocultural-groups/ecg-002-01

Archive/File: orgs/canadian/canada/justice/ethnocultural-groups/ecg-002-01
Last-Modified: 1997/01/27
Source: Department of Justice Canada

2.1.4 Language

Etherington's study focuses on language as an accessibility
issue. Some of the reports reviewed in the study call for
more English-language training to make existing PLEI
materials more accessible.<44> Some of the documents also
call for more legal information in first languages.<45>
Learning one of Canada's official languages is, in itself,
an important objective promoting integration into the
society. For some years, PLEI organizations such as the
Public Legal Education Society of British Columbia, which is
known as "the People's Law School," have combined second-
language training with providing public legal information.
For the most part, these two objectives can be easily
combined. Settlement programs sponsored by the federal and
provincial governments could also combine objectives by
promoting the use of legal information subject matter in
language training programs. This would be particularly
useful for legal education, as distinct from information,
which would focus on general knowledge about the legal
system, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, basic
legal values and traditions, and basic information on the
Canadian legal system.

Using plain language is generally 'de rigueur' in legal
information materials. This is especially important when
producing written materials for populations with educational
or linguistic limitations, but problems could still arise
with respect to the complexity of the material. Research in
plain language PLEI has shown that legal  information cannot
be simplified below a certain point without losing some of
the complexity inherent in the legal concepts. This can lead
to problems in the preparation of PLEI materials for new and
minority Canadians because of the compound effects of
language limitations with the complexity threshold. This is
an issue which has not been addressed, but should be
considered by program developers and researchers.

1.5 Multi-media PLEI Formats

The Etherington report concludes from the review of the PLEI
literature that multi-media approaches are also desirable.
While this has been the accepted precept in the public legal
education and information field for some time, Burtch and
Reid found in their study of barriers to legal information
arnong five ethnocultural groups in Vancouver, that the
preferred kind of PLEI media was print. Respondents in the
study expressed the desire for ethnic and other media to
publish information on the availability of PLEI materials,
and to receive such legal information in print form so it
could be studied when convenient.<46> The implications of
this finding should be examined by PLEI providers; the
effectiveness of strategies using print format combined with
information provided in ethnic community newspapers to
facilitate access to the legal information sources should be
studied empirically.

2.1.6 Involvement of Government Bureaucracies

Since members of minority groups rely heavily and frequently
on government and non-government service agencies, they
should become involved, or more involved, in the delivery of
PLEI.<47> Mainstream public legal information Organizations
generally consult extensively with ethnic organizations and
with multicultural services agencies in the development of
PLEI materials, and often utilize the facilities and
services of these organizations in the delivery of legal

Both federal and provincial government agencies should
become more directly involved in the development and
provision of legal information about the services they
provide. Extensive resources already exist in PLEI
organizations and numerous ethnic organizations which
government departments and agencies could consult in
developing presentation formats and delivery mechanisms for
legal information. Partnership arrangements are already
common among PLEI organizations, ethnic organizations and
multicultural services agencies. Government departments
could develop similar arrangements.

2.1.7 Involving Ethnic Communities

Etherington points to the need to develop PLEI in
consultation with ethnic communities.<48> His report urges
that organizations developing PLEI materials should continue
and even expand efforts to use the expertise within ethnic
communities to identify problems where legal information can
provide solutions, and to develop appropriate delivery

From this point, the use of PLEI can be developed further as
a component of community development and action. The ethnic
community is its own resource.49 Communities are able to
identify their own problems as well as to address them, and
PLEI can be developed to assist them. PLEI might be used as a
catalyst for community action. Conventional PLEI materials
about the substantive law and the functioning of the legal
system could be combined with reliable empirically based
information on the nature of justice-related problems facing
communities. These materials, used together with a
representative from an ethnic community and some funding for
required operational aspects, could assist communities to
develop and put into effect solutions to their own problems.
This approach to PLEI, as a catalyst for social action and
problem solving by communities themselves, should be
developed through several experimental projects by
governrnents and ethnocultural communities.

2.1.8 Outreach Efforts for Hard-to-reach Sub-groups

The Etherington report suggests there should be special
efforts to provide legal information to hard-to-reach
populations.<50> Newly arrived ethnic groups are, almost by
definition, hard-to-reach populations. A 1990 study revealed
there was a preference by immigrants to have storefront
clinics in their neighbourhoods.<51> Burtch and Reid
recommended there should be more PLEI classes in more
locations that are accessible to ethnic groups.<52> PLEI can
be important in assuring access to justice for ethnocultural
minorities and variety of outreach and storefront mechanisms
should be attempted on a pilot-project basis.

These community strategies could be more than community
outlets for existing services. According to Etherington,
they should be designed to empower communities, making them
part of the process of problem definition and the
development of solutions. Careful monitoring and evaluation
would be necessary to help increase the knowledge required
for further work, and which would help to make it
transferable with appropriate modifications to other
communities and settings.

2.1.9 Legal Information Needs of Immigrant and Minority

While the legal information needs women immigrants and women
in minority groups is discussed more fully below,<53> it is
important to note here that Etherington recognized the need
to identify the unique problems of immigrant women and the
necessity of providing legal inforrnation so that it will
help solve their problems.

Special efforts are required for problems facing immigrant
domestic workers, issues concerning divorce, child custody
and support where questions of immigration status and
regulations are of concern, and the legal status and rights
of sponsored spouses.

2.1.10 Emphasis of Education in PLEI

Burtch and Reid showed in their research that while all
groups acknowledged a need for legal information, which
tends to be reactive and specific problemoriented, the
Vietnamese respondents did express a desire for legal
education. This emphasis would inform people about Canadian
values as they relate to justice and about the legal system
in general.<54> The work of the Law Courts Education Society
in Vancouver is generally oriented to this approach.<55>
This has long been a major orientation in the PLEI field,
along with the more problem-oriented information focus.
According to Burtch and Reid, PLEI programs do aid in the
immigrant settlement process, not only by providing the
knowledge necessary to deal with the many practical
requirements of daily life, but also by reducing feelings of
isolation and giving newcomers a sense of empowerment.<56>
It can be seen, therefore, that legal education,
particularly with respect to aspects of immigrant
settlement, should receive greater attention.

2.1.11 National Effort

There exists extensive resources throughout the country for
developing and delivering public legal education and
information. Since 1984, the Department of Justice Canada
has been a leader in ensuring there are legal information
organizations in all parts of the country, and has promoted,
through funding and through research and development,
improved approaches to deliver PLEI. Recently, the
Department has helped to encourage cooperative efforts with
other federal government departments with respect to
activities relating to ethnic diversity in Canada and the
national PLEI network.

The federal government is responsible for immigration in
Canada and relatively high levels of immigration are planned
for the coming years to increase the size of the national
population. Settlement programs do help immigrants adjust
more rapidly into society, and as noted above, integration
with respect to the justice system is an important aspect of
the broader process of integration and adaptation. Because
of its experience, the Department of Justice Canada should
continue to expand its activities with respect to
coordinating a national PLEI strategy aimed at promoting
adaptation, full participation, social harmony and unity in
the ethnocultural diversity of modern Canadian society.

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