Aboriginal Justice Strategy Mid-Term Evaluation, Final Report

5. Conclusions

The AJD has made substantial progress in addressing the recommendations from the 2007 AJS Summative Evaluation and implementing the enhancements. The following five key recommendations from the 2007 Summative Evaluation were in various stages of implementation: implement measures to make the selection of new programs more formalized and accessible; increase awareness and access for communities to training and development initiatives; develop a systematic approach to data collection and reporting; increase the number of Community-based Justice Program communities; and improve communication and collaboration.

The primary barrier to implementing the AJS enhancements was that while it was approved in principle in November 2006, it was not until close to the end of the 2007/08 fiscal year that the Department was able to access the expansion funds due to the late renewal of the AJS and a delay in releasing funds for program allocation. During this time, communities had to shoulder the costs of activities until payments could be disbursed. Although AJS has little control over the length and timing of the policy cycle as it pertains to program renewal, it is important to note that the ALSP and AJD have begun the preparatory work to facilitate a smooth renewal process.

The renewal-based nature of both the Strategy as a whole, provincial/territorial agreements and memoranda of understanding as well as individual contribution agreements with the communities, have presented challenges to the administration of the AJS, to the implementation of programs and projects, and to maintaining continuity in AJD staff. There is a widely held view among stakeholders that multi-year agreements with communities would reduce uncertainty and funding inconsistency at the program level. Many respondents also recommended that the AJS should receive permanent funding, as opposed to the current renewal-based structure.

Results from the project file review reveal that some objectives are supported by program activities to a greater degree than others. In particular, the objective "to assist Aboriginal communities to provide better and timelier information about community justice programs funded by the AJS" was supported by only a few Community-based Justice Programs, and many key informants were unclear as to the applicability of the objective to their programs and/or to the expected outcomes of the Strategy.

Although improvements have been made with the level of communication at the federal level, the level and amount of communication between the AJD and community-based funding recipients is informal and relatively inconsistent. As such, there is a need to develop communications protocols for and between all levels of stakeholders involved in the delivery of Community-based Justice Programs.

Consistency in federal contacts (which is improving after the period of instability within the AJD), and a sufficient number of Regional Coordinators who can act as a stable, knowledgeable point of contact for funding recipients in all regions, would ensure that information pertaining to the AJS and its available services is adequately and consistently conveyed to individual programs and communities. In particular, it was recommended by most key informants that a concerted communication effort be undertaken to raise awareness of the AJS among communities not currently participating. Continuing to encourage and foster opportunities between AJS communities in the sharing of best practices, challenges and successes was also suggested.

AJD representatives, particularly regional staff, indicated that they have only limited involvement with ALSP, and expressed that many policy decisions are made by ALSP in isolation from AJS programs. Increased frequency and formality of communication would promote a more inclusive relationship in terms of addressing and reporting on policy issues, and would better integrate Aboriginal programs and policy functions. Increasing awareness and participation in AJS programming by police and Crown representatives and other referral agencies is also essential, due to their critical role in referring potential participants to the programs.

Although the AJS enhancement allowed for the implementation of new Community-based Justice Programs and the creation of the Capacity Building Fund, many respondents felt that significant funding shortages remain. The extent to which this is accurate cannot, however, be specifically determined due to the method of calculating the amount allocated for grants and contributions, the amount committed and disbursements. As committed Community-based Justice Program funds were often not paid out in full due to communities not fulfilling final or interim reporting requirements, not carrying out all program activities or unexpected changes in yearly workplans and deliverables, some AJS funding lapsed. In addition, the amount of Capacity Building Fund funding available was limited due to the lack of a dedicated allotment for this component of the AJS, the receipt of funding late in the fiscal year, and projects not completed in the planned timeframe. Furthermore, there was confusion about the use and limitations of grants under the Capacity Building Fund.

Community reporting and data collection varied widely, depending on the size of the program and capacity/staffing resources dedicated to reporting. Through the project file review, it was found that many of the programs had incomplete or missing reports. As the National Data Requirement Reporting system will not be in place prior to the impact summative evaluation, Community-based Justice Program and Capacity Building Fund project-related data required for the evaluation will have to be accessed from existing reports submitted by funding recipients unless other methods of tracking are implemented prior to the evaluation. As these reports are not always complete and vary in terms of content, it may be necessary to collect additional data to adequately measure the impact of the AJS and/or Community-based Justice Programs.

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