The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: orgs/canadian/canada/justice/ethnocultural-groups/ecg-013-03

Archive/File: orgs/canadian/canada/justice/ethnocultural-groups/ecg-013-03
Last-Modified: 1997/01/29
Source: Department of Justice Canada

13.3.6 The Need for Public Legal Education and Information

The need for public legal education and information (PLEI)
among immigrants and minorities is a priority. There were
repeated expressions on the need for PLEI in Etherington's
study and Mendes emphasized the need for information about
accessing complaint and redress mechanisms. The respondents
representing ethnic organizations in the study by MARC
emphasized the need for information about the law and how it
works. The study by Burtch and Reid directly addressed some
of the PLEI needs of immigrants.

New Canadians have a great need for information on the legal
aspects of numerous everyday requirements they encounter in
a new society. The study of legal needs of immigrants by the
Social Planning and Research Council of Vancouver indicates
that there is also a need for new kinds of legal information
for immigrants as their length of residence in Canada
increases and the problems and needs they face change.

There are several basic kinds of PLEI required by immigrants
which address different objectives. Immigrants and
minorities need basic information about the law, how the
justice system works, and how, and where, to access more
specific information when it is required. This sort of
information allows people to avoid problems and
disadvantages which might arise by not knowing what must, or
should, be done.

According to research by the Law Courts Education Society of
B.C. and the Immigrant Services Society of Vancouver,
immigrants need the public legal information which
alleviates fears and misinformation about the Canadian
justice system which may derive from experiences with
corrupt or repressive regimes in their countries of origin.
Some members of minority groups in Canada express, in
varying degrees, a reluctance to seek the protection of, or
to cooperate with, the justice system. Other immigrants may
attempt to follow practices learned- in countries of origin
in dealing with the justice system in Canada with
unfortunate results. Overcoming culturally based
misperceptions and the misinformation brought from abroad
and inappropriately applied to the justice system in Canada
must be addressed in PLEI.

Protection of legal rights is an important aspect of PLEI.
People need to know their rights under the law, and how to
lodge legitimate complaints concerning alleged violations of
those rights. They need to know how and where to access
justice services and related support services when taking
action to protect their rights.

Immigrants who make the choice to come to a new and
unfamiliar place to start new lives might be strongly incli
led to learn about the values and the culture in their
adopted country. The importance of rights consciousness in
the world views of many people, and the practical sense held
by most people that knowledge of the law is important, may
be the factors that predispose immigrants to acknowledge the
importance of the law and the justice system as part of the
culture of the country. The education in PLEI suggests there
is a need to replace ignorance and confusion with
familiarity and trust, and to convey to new Canadians the
basic knowledge and core values which allow them to
understand how the Canadian justice system operates, and
according to what basic practices and principles.

PLEI may be an important tool in a justice-community
development strategy to help ethnocultural groups define the
justice problems affecting their communities and to develop
solutions for them. Information about the law and how the
justice system works, combined with more problem-specific
information about the nature of certain problems, might
assist ethnocultural community organizations working with
the justice system, to use the resources of the communities
to develop clearer definitions of problems and more durable
solutions. Moreover, partnerships between the justice system
and ethnocultural communities might lay the foundation for
greater cooperation and trust in the long term.

Getting access to legal information and using it effectively
poses special problems for members of minority groups who
may experience language, psychological, or other barriers.
Concerted efforts by governments and PLEI organizations to
develop culturally appropriate materials and delivery models
is required. This is especially important as the nature of
ethnic diversity in Canada continues to change, as the
nature of intergroup relationships change, and as the
challenges encountered by immigrants and indigenous
minorities change with altering conditions.

13.4 Minority Women and the Justice System

The special problems of minority women have been highlighted
throughout this report. Some of the problems touched on are
entirely minority gender-specific, such as the practice of
female genital mutilation. Some problems are virtually
minority gender-specific such as the problems of domestic
workers, and custody and access issues relating to immigrant
women. Family violence may affect some minority women more
severely because of the reluctance to go outside the family
or the community for assistance. Social isolation because of
language barriers, or the lack of culturally appropriate
community services may increase the vulnerability of
minority women to violence and abuse. The concluding remarks
call for coherent approach to gender issues in
multiculturalism and justice, keeping in mind two points not
emphasized in much of the background literature.

The first point goes beyond gender and justice. It must be
recognized that race or ethnicity, gender and class are not
distinct categories in reality. They produce a compound
effect which is the product of the three aspects being
inseparably fused. The whole is different from the sum of
its parts.

Second, ethnicity, gender and class taken together must be
viewed as qualitatively distinct perspective on any
"problem." A particular problem should not be viewed as
having gender variations, with male and female differences
that can be statistically partitioned and thus understood. To
fully understand the nature of the justice problems of
minority women, their problems must be approached with a
methodology that attempts to understand their life
experiences in their minority cultures, social structures,
and class contexts.

Multiculturalism and justice issues of minority women should
be approached as a distinct and coherent issue area within
the domain of multiculturalism and justice.

13.5 Minority Youth

If problems of integration and adjustment as they relate to
the justice system become translated into socially
structured problems reproduced from one generation to the
next, or created by the circumstances affecting the younger
generation and consolidated throughout their lives, a
serious social problem looms. The factors which might
operate to produce a racially or ethnically based underclass
are well beyond the sphere of this report. However, Pearcey
suggests that a combination of factors such as barriers to
integration, particularly, language, and integration
problems relating to inter-generational conflict within
families, produce the conditions for involvement in youth
crime and gang activities.<356>

Based on research carried out in the B.C. corrections
system, it appears that ethnocultural minority youth are not
overrepresented in the system.357 This result is different
from research cited by Etherington where minority youth were
overrepresented in Quebec City and Montreal detention
centres.<358> However, following Pearcy's preliminary work,
research should be carried out to identify the processes
which produce alienation from both the mainstream society
and the ethnic group, and lead minority youth to criminal
activities for pecuniary gain, for status and acceptance by
significant others, or other factors.

13.6 Strategy For Action

In view of the demographic changes taking place in Canada,
and in view of the socio-political context in which the
changes in Canada's ethnic composition are taking place,
there is real basis for concern about the potential
development of justice problems along racial or ethnic lines.
This represents a potential situation of considerable social
conflict, as is evidenced in the race situation in the United
States. There is no crisis in Canada, but preventative action
is clearly called essential.

Action will not take shape and direction by itself.
Government departments as well as non-governmental
organizations could expand considerable resources, over a
number of years, sponsoring many projects and research, but
without a strategy, and an organizational vehicle to give it
coherence, visible ameliorations of the problems will not be

Throughout this report, the necessity of meaningful
involvement by ethnocultural communities in addressing
justice problems has been emphasized. The first step in an
overall strategy, therefore, is the continuation of the
dialogue that is represented by this report, and moving it
to a more direct level. This report attempted to show,
indirectly, through research on a variety of issues, and
more directly, through interviews with representatives of
more than 300 ethnocultural organizations in Canada, the
justice-related problems affecting communities. The next
step should be to present this report and the background
research to ethnocultural communities in Canada as a basis
for continued dialogue. The dialogue, or consultation, would
become more direct and more focussed. Ethnocultural
communities should have the opportunity to look at a wider
body of evidence and thought than has been available to them
up to now. Combined with their knowledge gained from
experience, representatives of cornmunities could play an
important and appropriate role in defining problems and
developing solutions. On this basis, communities could offer
advice to government on what issues should be addressed, and
how the resources of the communities could best be combined
with those of the state to address priority justice

This consultation requires some supporting infrastructure.
The Etherington report presents a recommendation made in a
report of the former Law Reform Commission of Canada to
establish a multicultural criminal justice advisory
council.<359> This proposed body would be an omnibus
organization with a full-time staff, having a variety of
mandates: research, dispute resolution, encouraging changes
in law and the justice system, and the promotion of
tolerance, acceptance and understanding among the

This idea might be premature. A more modest task force,
possibly established within the Department of Justice
Canada, would be sufficient to begin the task of a new stage
of dialogue and consultation described above, as well as
continue the research and project activities which have been
slowly developing for the past few years. A Department of
Justice Canada task force would have the added advantage of
continuity with current federal-provincial activities
relating to multiculturalism and justice issues.

Such a task force would have a full time staff and a life
span of about five years. It would have a mandate to
accomplish feasible short- to medium-term objectives and to
set the main direction for a coordinated national
multiculturalism and justice agenda for the future. An
independent council of the sort suggested by the former Law
Reform Commission would be a matter for consideration by the
interim justice task force.

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