Initiative in Support of Access to Justice in Both Official Languages Evaluation

Executive Summary

This document constitutes the report from the evaluation of the Initiative in Support of Access to Justice in Both Official Languages. The Department of Justice Canada launched the Initiative in 2003, under the Action Plan for Official Languages, and broadened its scope in 2008 under the Roadmap for Linguistic Duality.

1. Description of the Initiative

Through the Roadmap for Linguistic Duality, the federal government committed to investing the amount of $41.2 million over five years to facilitate access to justice in both official languages:

  • An amount of $21.2 million over five years was allocated to the Access to Justice in Both Official Languages Support Fund, which seeks to strengthen the capacity of justice stakeholders to provide services in both official languages and be involved in raising the awareness of official language communities about exercising their language rights in the area of justice;
  • An amount of $20 million over five years was allocated specifically to training bilingual justice professionals.

These two components of the Initiative are intended to contribute to the same outcome, namely increased ability of partners and the Department to implement solutions regarding access to justice in both official languages.

The Department of Justice also continued its work of coordinating the meetings of the Advisory Committee on Access to Justice in Both Official Languages and the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Working Group on Access to Justice in Both Official Languages.

All these activities seek the emergence of service delivery models in both official languages and ways to access information on the justice system.

2. Methodology

The evaluation of the Initiative is based on five main research methods:

  • a review of all the documentation pertaining to the Initiative;
  • interviews with various stakeholders who were involved in implementing the Initiative;
  • case studies;
  • a survey among funded organizations of the Initiative;
  • an expert panel.

3. Relevance

The federal government plays a prominent role in the area of access to justice in both official languages due to its languages obligations set out by the Constitution, Part XXVII of the Criminal Code (section 530 and 530.1), Part IV of the Official Languages Act, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as the related case law, particularly the Beaulac case.

The objectives of the Initiative are consistent with the priorities of the Department of Justice and align with the Department’s strategic outcome to “create a fair, relevant and accessible justice system that reflects Canadian values”.

By its very nature, training for justice professionals is an ongoing need. Not only staff turnover requires this approach, but it is also important to recognize that training plays a lead role in maintaining acquired knowledge, especially in a minority language setting. As with training, the activities for promoting access to justice in both official languages are ongoing. Increasing awareness about justice careers, as well as delivering activities for providing legal information to official language minority communities, are activities that will need to continue. However, the strategies and tools used will have to evolve to reflect, among other things, new information technologies.

4. Effectiveness

Based on the experience acquired between 2003 and 2008, and given the fact that the Initiative’s budget essentially doubled under the Roadmap, in 2008 the Department expanded its requirements regarding the information needed for assessing a funding request. These adjustments have helped to more adequately manage the applications submitted. The Initiative’s funded organizations are satisfied with the existing process regarding the information provided, the support when submitting funding requests and during the accountability process.

The existing coordination structures operate in an effective manner. In particular, the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Working Group on Access to Justice in Both Official Languages has helped establish important connections among its various participants. The recent involvement of representatives responsible for Francophone affairs also helped expand the issues addressed by the Working Group. The Advisory Committee on Access to Justice in Both Official Languages continues to meet with a great number of the Initiative’s funded organizations, which, among other things, enables the Department to communicate directly with them at least once a year.

The Department has established a system for managing contributions agreements, which includes an administrative database that contains information on each project’s intended and achieved outcomes. Although some funded organizations have experienced delays, activity reports were available for the vast majority of the projects funded. However, measuring outcomes achieved remains a challenge for a number of funded organizations. As such, they often end up with data pertaining to outputs rather than intended outcomes. However, it is essential to build on the progress made to date and to refine the performance measurement strategies of the projects funded. In this regard, it is noted that some funded organizations carried out a formal evaluation of their projects, which is a best practice when the project’s scope warrants it.

The training component was implemented effectively, due to the fact that, among other things, the Department conducted a needs study that was widely endorsed by justice professionals. That study established helpful parameters for guiding further investment in training. The training projects funded directly address the needs identified by the study. With the funding granted since 2008, the quantity and quality of training have improved. Progress has been made, especially with in-person training. Establishing the Centre canadien du français juridique, which arises directly from the Initiative’s funding in training, strengthened the institutional capacity to offer a broader range of training to the various legal professionals. Although some activities had been undertaken in on-line training, other initiatives will have to come about to be able to adequately meet the needs in this area.

The organizations receiving core funding from the Initiative are considered important for access to justice in both official languages. However, since the new training component was implemented, the list of organizations operating in the system that receive funds from the Initiative through project funding, not core funding, continues to grow.

The Initiative has also allocated funding to promoting the various justice careers, including the Carrière en justice project. This project seeks to encourage young bilingual Canadians to aim for positions within the justice system. This type of activity receives steady support. It can be expected that these activities will lead to an increase in young bilingual Canadians registering for training programs for the careers that are promoted. Due to the methodological complexity of measuring such projects, this evaluation did not address this issue, although such a measurement could be covered by a stand-alone study.

The projects supported by the Initiative have helped ensure greater and ongoing access to justice services in both official languages. In the short term, the training activities have helped strengthen the language ability of justice professionals, including the judiciary, lawyers and Crown attorneys, as well as other professionals. The development of jurilinguistic tools also helps build a standardized common law and civil law vocabulary, in both French and English. In the longer term, the activities for raising awareness of and promoting justice careers among young bilingual Canadians should also help implement institutional bilingualism in the justice system.

5. Efficiency

The management practices implemented by the Initiative’s selection committee foster an efficient use of human resources for achieving the expected outcomes. An initial process conducted by a program officer enables the committee members to focus on more specific and complex issues, including project vision, intended outcomes, impacts and potential partnerships. Moreover, the committee avoids duplication and funding projects that are known to be ineffective. Lastly, project selection is closely connected with the strategies set out in various needs analyses, such as the Canada-Wide Analysis of Official Language Training Needs in the Area of Justice.

As for efficiency, the evaluation compares the Initiative’s funding strategy with the integrative model for access to justice in both official languages proposed by the case studies conducted by the Department in 2011. This model is the Department’s first attempt to identify the key areas that the Initiative must fund to bring about structuring and multiplier effects. Use of the Initiative’s resources seems efficient in that three quarters of the amounts funded during the period covered by this evaluation were directed specifically into the areas identified by the integrative model as having the greatest multiplier and structuring effects in connection with the Initiative’s objectives.

Date modified: