The Challenges of Youth Justice in Rural and Isolated Areas in Canada
The current study involved key informant interviews with criminal justice professionals and community stakeholders. The questions were determined with input from Justice Canada officials and from a review of the relevant literature. The project was introduced by federal officials to the Youth Justice Research Advisory Working Group, which is comprised of federal, provincial and territorial representatives with expertise in method and data sources, and subsequently to the National Crime Prevention Centre (NCPC) Regional Directors. These officials were asked to comment on the study design and to identify key people in each of the jurisdictions who were best able to speak to the issues. If the individual contacted did not feel qualified to discuss the matters in the whole of the jurisdiction, additional names were sought. This "snowball" sampling approach continued throughout the period of data collection.
A total of 42 interviews were conducted in all provinces and territories except Quebec , PEI and New Brunswick who were consulted but ultimately chose not to participate. The number of interviews conducted in each jurisdiction is as follows: NWT (3); Yukon (4); Nunavut (3); British Columbia (8); Alberta (4); Saskatchewan (3); Manitoba (7); Ontario (5); Nova Scotia (1); and Newfoundland (4). In addition, several respondents indicated that they had consulted with one or more of their colleagues before the interview, so these interviews may reflect the perceptions and opinions of more than one person.
The roles and responsibilities of people who participated in the research was wide-ranging and included area managers and directors of probation, victims and youth corrections services; probation officers; program coordinators; managers of specific services such as Aboriginal and community projects; representatives of private agencies for aftercare or restorative justice programs; Crown counsel; legal aid or private defence counsel; regional justice specialists; court administrators; policy advisors; government child and family workers; and community youth coordinators.
The study surveyed problems in rural and isolated areas, defined as:
- "rural" means an area with a lower population density - according to Statistics Canada, fewer than 1000 residents per square kilometre;
- " isolated " means that criminal justice services may be situated at considerable distances from where youth and families reside and considerable travel may be involved. The size and isolation of communities (as measured by distances from urban centres and from other communities) can vary greatly so it is important to remember that there is not a single model of isolation.
Due to widespread consensus in many of the responses, the results of the survey are set out in the report by question or issue rather than by jurisdiction. However, the need for greater specificity and elaboration on some issues is also required therefore three subsections relating to urban, isolated and Aboriginal communities augment the issues section. The final section of the report sets out possible solutions and some of the innovations that have emerged in response to the barriers and challenges to the delivery of youth justice services in rural and isolated communities.
The interview questions are located in Appendix A.
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