Legal Aid, Courtworker, and Public Legal Education and Information Needs in the Northwest Territories


Table 22: Strategies for High Priority Needs
Need Strategies/Resources Related Comments
Courtworker Development. Certified training to give skills and competencies allowing Courtworkers to undertake specified activities. comparisons were made with Opthalmic Medical Assistants (OMA) who carry out diagnostic and therapeutic procedures under the direction and supervision of a qualified opthalmologist. Training involves a well-defined curriculum and rigid assessment program.
Mentoring with a specific assigned lawyer. although Courtworkers are centrally supervised, either from Yellowknife or Inuvik, this suggestion envisages a more consistently developmental role with either a staff or private lawyer.
Development of code of conduct. This was a need suggested in the focus group rather than through surveys, and was seen as an essential component of Courtworker development.
Reduction of backlog in family law cases. Contract with lawyers from outside the NWT. This is currently being done on a trial basis. It is costly and, due to frequent adjournments of cases, may not prove cost efficient.
Hire an additional family law lawyer.  
Raise family tariff. May need to be looked at in relation to an overall review of the tariff. Also may not be sufficient to compensate for the current negative environment in family law.
Implement a clinic approach to family and civil law. The example given was of two family law lawyers with two paralegal social workers or trained civil Courtworkers. This approach was felt to hold out more possibility of non-litigated settlements.
Collaborative law approach. There is some interest in this approach and presentations made in Yellowknife. One problem is the fact that litigants and lawyers are frequently from different communities and /or jurisdictions.
Increase PLEI in family law. This can also be done in relation to a clinic approach or in development of Courtworker functions.
Increasing accessibility of legal aid services to Aboriginal populations. Development and consolidation of Courtworker roles as above.  
Development of a storefront service in Yellowknife. This could also be part of a clinic approach, as per the family law strategies above.
Lawyers go to communities in advance of circuit dates. Although this requires more funds for accommodation, better case preparation can reduce trial adjournments and increase Aboriginal client confidence in the system.
Through collaborative processes, increase PLEI done by community groups. The rationale is that by diversifying delivery of PLEI through a wider community network to which Aboriginal individuals are connected, the impact of information is greater. One participant felt the issue should not be seen only as the role of PLEI in legal aid, but the role of legal aid in the overall provision of PLEI across all government departments and the community.
Formalize and increase Courtworker role in PLEI. Courtworkers have a vital role as a cultural bridge.
More activist role for legal aid with government departments and community agencies. Clinic concept that may involve social workers or social work paralegals with lawyers. See above discussion. It was felt that unless the Legal Services Board sought collaboration with other departments, these types of initiatives would be unlikely to occur.
Embrace technological approaches. Push to get videoconferencing facilities in remote communities that could serve numerous types of users. it was felt, as with the previous point, that this type of initiative will take collaboration with many other players. Although videoconferencing was of particular interest for show cause hearings, it was felt important to view this issue in a larger perspective, i.e., that technological solutions may be appropriate for a number of justice processes that are currently time-consuming and expensive.


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