Provincial justice minister puts pressure on feds

Justice and safety ministers from provincial, territorial, and federal offices gathered together to discuss issues at the forefront of Canadian safety. The yearly meeting, also known as the FPT (federal, provincial, and territorial) meeting, was held in Regina and took place from Oct. 30 to Nov. 1.

Andrew Swan, Manitoba minister for justice and attorney general, told the Manitoban that the province has been aiming to increase federal support to different programs and initiatives throughout the province.

Swam explained that, in the past, the federal and provincial government have evenly split financial contribution to programs such as legal aid, a mandatory resource for offenders who cannot afford a lawyer. The federal government is now providing only 16 per cent to legal aid.

“There are areas of mutual responsibility [ . . . ] areas where, in our view, the feds aren’t living up to their end of the partnership.”

Swan explained that drug treatment courts are another area where he put pressure on the federal government for more support and resources.

The drug treatment court in Winnipeg assists individuals who have broken the law due to addictions. Swan explained that the success rate for this court is extremely high, with low re-offences and many offenders turning their lives around after the treatment options given to them.

“This was a chance to explain to the federal justice minister how important this program is, how positive it is, and ask him to work with his [ . . . ] colleagues and the prime minister to try to get more resources,” said Swan.

Also on the agenda for Manitoba was First Nations policing. The model is a three-way agreement between the First Nations, provincial, and federal governments, with 52 per cent of the cost covered federally and 48 per cent provincially.

Swan explained that it encourages more Aboriginal people to get involved in policing, producing better results. An increase of support from the federal government has not occurred, which means that the number of communities with First Nations policing has been capped.

Since his time as justice minister, Swan has received multiple requests for the First Nations policing program from different communities but is unable to discuss the possibility with these individuals until the federal government provides more support in the next budget.

Four different Island Lake First Nations communities recently announced that they have used $30,000 reserved for other areas to subsidize First Nations policing program that are short on government funding.

Due to recent tragedies involving teens and suicide, the FPT meeting also focused on cyber-bulling.

“As justice ministers we don’t always have all the solutions but we do want to pursue whether there should be something done on the criminal code side [ . . . ] to prevent these tragedies from occurring,” said Swan.

A working group was formed after extensive conversation surrounding the topic and will look at what can be done to prevent these occurrences.