Justice initiatives reduce youth court appearances to zero in Patuanak

By Bryan Eneas
May 17, 2018 - 8:00am

A community justice coordinator for the English River First Nation in Patuanak, some 400 kilometers North of Prince Albert, has set out to mak youth in her community aware of the justice system, and she brought about an interesting result.

Janine Dawatsare was a presenter at the Northern Justice Symposium on May 16. She told the crowd gathered at Plaza 88 how she went about helping to improve her community with a Law Day.

She said a lot of youth in the community were unaware of protocol or etiquette when it comes to appearing in court. She hosted the law day event in the community, in the hopes of giving them an education.

“[The youth] seemed pretty interested… since I did that presentation we haven’t had any youth on the docket in the last three or four months,” Dawatsare said. “I believe it helped a bit somewhere."

As part of the legal day, Dawatsare organized a mock trial. She wanted the case to reflect property crimes which are a common problem in the community.

She took to the Internet and found a scripted mock trial, which saw Alice from Alice in Wonderland take to the stand after she was accused of stealing cookies. Students took roles, and others observed as the judge, who was played by a local RCMP officer, eventually found Alice guilty according to Dawatsare.

Dawatsare said she followed the mock trial with a presentation, and students toured the local RCMP detachment to conclude their law day. She has since set up a social media page, where she can share information and news articles about the justice system along with the odd inspirational status update.

The justice coordinator said since the legal day, youth have approached her with a variety of questions about the justice system, something she isn’t surprised about.

“They needed it right. I figured they needed some kind of role model or someone to go to with questions about justice,” Dawatsare said.


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