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Breaking Barriers – To Employment

June 19, 2019

Written by Selwynne Hawkins

For people who have been recently incarcerated, access to a stable job reduces the chances of recidivism and is a key factor in successful integration into the community. But, even after an offender has “served their time,” they continue to face stigma and discrimination for mistakes they made in the past. This stigma manifests itself in many ways, making it difficult for people with criminal records to find employment.

In a year-long project, the Research and Evaluation team at the Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary performed a qualitative analysis to investigate the barriers people with criminal records face in their search for employment.

Barriers to finding and securing employment

Most employers require criminal record checks for job applicants. A clean record is taken as an assurance of good character. However, the implications of a criminal record check are not always clear or transparent. In some cases, a prior offence that shows up on a police information check is unrelated to the job application at hand or occurred when the individual was younger or in a challenging phase of their lives.

Larger employers often have policies in place for hiring people with criminal records, while often smaller employers may not always have a policy in place. Employers without policy surrounding criminal records are more likely to reject applicants with criminal records, as they are lacking knowledge of best practices for addressing criminal records within their own organizational context.

Unlike the human rights acts of Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia, the Alberta Human Rights Act does not protect against discrimination based on criminal record. For Albertans with criminal records, a criminal record can be a significant barrier to securing employment. Even after someone with a criminal record has secured employment, they may still face stigma and discrimination in their workplace should this record become known outside of the employer.

Without access to sustainable employment, individuals tend to find ways to secure some means of financial support by being forced to work in dangerous conditions and/or end up working under the table for less than what would be available to them should they be working legitimately. They work without benefits, the security of WCB, and without vacation pay or overtime pay as required by law.

Some of the recommendations we learned from the research were that we need to start addressing these barriers, with accessible information and education for employers. This education will assist them in implementing changes to their human resource policies regarding exclusionary practices around criminal records. It will open up possibilities for employers to have more meaningful and open discussions around criminal records. Secondly, and a much larger challenge is to address changes in legislation requiring employees to investigate past criminal records on a criteria that includes length of time since the record was incurred and whether the record has relevant risk to the position being hired.

What can your workplace do to give women a chance at integrating successfully with employment and providing them with the independence they need to avoid becoming recriminalized?

 

 


Profile of a Practicum Student

June 17, 2019

JACKSON ECKES

Written by: Andleeb Azad

Jackson Eckes is a recent graduate, with a Criminal Justice degree, who hopes to one day have a career helping youth. He first heard about the Elizabeth Fry Society during his post-secondary education and became involved with the Society in June 2018, when he started with the Youth Mentorship program. He has worked with this program both as a volunteer and a practicum student. Attracted to the Elizabeth Fry Society because it helped him make a positive difference in someone’s life, Jackson supports clients in court matters by providing them with the necessary legal information and knowledge of court processes, as well as building positive relationships with at-risk youth to provide emotional support and encouragement in while they work to stay out of trouble and reintegrate into the community.

What has working with the Elizabeth Fry Society taught you, both in your personal and professional life?

My perspective has opened up more than anything. Working with The Elizabeth Fry Society during my practicum has given me the chance to get a feel of what it was like to get some experience in the field of legal work. I learned a lot about the legal system, court processes, communication skills, time management, patience and logical reasoning during my practicum.

Why do you believe the Elizabeth Fry Society is important for our community?

The Elizabeth Fry Society offers many resources and programs that support rehabilitation and reintegration into society of individuals involved with the legal system.

How has your role with the Elizabeth Fry Society changed you as a person? How do you think it has changed or impacted those who’ve come to its doors seeking help?

It is rewarding to know we are making a difference in someone else’s life by showing them court is not as serious or intimidating as it might appear and to offer referrals for people who need it (legal representation, counselling, disclosure, etc). I always felt like I was making a difference no matter what I was doing. The role was important for me because it was not only required for me to graduate, it gave me the experience I need to help me out with my future career.

 


Indigenous Learning: Beading

Beading on the Path to Healing

Written: by Wes Lafortune

Elizabeth Fry’s Indigenous Program Coordinator, Barbara Smith gently cups a tiny beaded moccasin in her hands adorned with wolf willow seeds. It conjures up memories of her own childhood on the Piikani Nation where her grandmother first introduced her to beading at the age of nine.

Barbara later relocated to Calgary but spent many hours on the Nation with her grandmother where she learned more about their culture.

“All I knew is that I loved this woman,“ recalls Barbara.

Her respect and admiration of her grandmother’s beading piqued her own interest in learning the craft. She apprenticed the skill by learning basic stitches until she established her own unique signature beading style.

That introduction to traditional beading has led Barbara on a long journey of learning and becoming an accomplished and well known skilled beader in her community. Many dancers are wearing Barbara’s work on their regalia on the powwow scene.

Barbara eventually brought her skill to the offices of Elizabeth Fry Society in Calgary where for the past five years she has shared her wisdom and taught hundreds of Indigenous and non-Indigenous women alike how to bead and create cultural crafts including pouches, necklaces and moccasins. The women not only learn how to bead, but learn the history behind the craft and gain cultural pride as they master their own personal skill.

“It can be entrepreneurial,” says Barbara referring to the finished pieces which

are highly prized and valued in both the Indigenous and non-Indigenous community. Yet what is obvious when listening to this proud Piikani woman talk about this tradition is not about commerce, but the healing that occurs when women, many who have experienced significant trauma in their lives, join this group and and find a place of acceptance.

“They build a safe place,” she says. “It’s our community.”