News and Archives

Pathways to Healing: Youth Mentorship Program

December 20, 2019 | Pathways to Healing, Youth Mentorship

By: Jaskirat Ghuttora

One program of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary that you may or may not have heard of is the Youth Mentorship Program and it is one that I would like to shed some more light on. The Youth Mentorship program aims to pair marginalized and underprivileged youth with volunteers from EFry in order for them to have a positive role model to look up to and learn from in their lives. This program gives a helping hand to those youth who find themselves in trouble because no one is there to listen to them, and they just need their voice to be heard.

I would like to focus on one of our youth mentors, Jackson Eckes and his experience with his mentee on how the mentorship program allowed them both to grow, connect and learn from each other. Jackson discussed how his mentee and him both established common grounds from their upbringings, to their beliefs which helped establish a respectful and empathetic connection between the two right off the bat. From there the connection only blossomed as they were both in somewhat similar situations when they were paired up at the beginning of the school year. On one hand, Jackson was finishing his final year of post-secondary and doing his practicum with EFry in the court volunteer program, while his mentee was upgrading in order to get into his post-secondary degree of choice. This led to an understandable array of stress and emotions, however their mutual experience contributed to Jackson’s ability to see his mentee succeed and be a positive influence on his mentee. Coupled with his mentee’s desire to consistently improved upon work ethic, they were able to progress together.

Eventually, the time will come for Jackson and his mentee to part ways at the end of November. However, after having met one another in August of 2018 and building a strong and meaningful mentor to mentee relationship, Jackson believes it has evolved past that and blossomed into a positive and enduring connection where they both served as positive influences and learning experiences to one another throughout their time together.

As you can see, The Youth Mentorship Program from The Elizabeth Fry Society aims to build a meaningful relationship between mentors and mentees in order to help underprivileged mentees feel welcome into society and accepted for who they are, alongside helping them realize their self-worth. Additionally, it helps youth who may have continued down the wrong path towards opportunities of moving towards a more healthy directions.

Welcoming the Calgary Indigenous Court (CIC)

December 2, 2019 | Indigenous Learning, News, Pathways to Healing, Uncategorized

The Calgary Indigenous Court (CIC) officially opened on September 4, 2019 after 18 months of consultation with Indigenous leaders and stakeholders. Operating weekly, the court will primarily deal with bail and sentencing hearings, concentrating on a restorative justice approach to crime while incorporating Indigenous traditions.

Modelled after a teepee, the courtroom is arranged in a circle, in which judges, victims, offenders, and lawyers sit at the same level so that each party is an equal participant in the judicial process. Four judges with deep ties to First Nations communities preside over the process and include stakeholders, such as Efry, Homefront, Calgary Legal Guidance and Native Counselling Services, to take part in the legal proceedings. Paying homage to Indigenous culture, Alberta Justice provides the option for witnesses to swear their oath with an eagle feather instead of a traditional bible and the courtroom has special ventilation to allow for burning of medicines for special events and ceremony.

Indigenous people are disproportionately represented in both federal and provincial institutions across Canada. Despite only accounting for 4.3% of the total Canadian population, Indigenous adults account for just over 1 in 4 of total admission to provincial and territorial and federal correctional services. Specifically in Alberta, 6.2% of the provincial population is Indigenous, however, current Indigenous incarceration rates in Alberta are unknown as the province has not released this data since 2012. It is the only province in Canada where this information is not publicly available. At the last reporting, Alberta had the most disproportionately high level of Indigenous incarceration and the previous government have acknowledged this overrepresentation.

The CIC is an effort to address these numbers and create alternatives to jail and prison time by implementing recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as well as the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) report. The colonial justice system and Criminal Code itself have not adequately managed crime involving Indigenous people and as a colonial system has not honoured the Indigenous traditions of reconciliation and restorative justice. Judge Eugene Creighton, the provincial court judge that presided over the opening ceremony, discussed the Blackfoot language saying, “We don’t have a word for crime. Our word is mistake.”

With a focus on cultural supports, peacemaking and joining Indigenous clients with the appropriate resources, including Elders, the CIC’s primary goal is restorative justice, rather than punitive justice. Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer stated that the UCP government supports different types of court models. Schweitzer elaborated, “Simply locking people up and throwing away the key is not the path forward, we have to make sure we’re innovative. What’s hurting people, how do we get those issues resolved?” By connecting Indigenous people in vulnerable situations with their community and culture, they find a space where they feel like they belong and the possibility of relapse becomes less likely.



Pathways to Healing: PCOP

October 1, 2019 | Pathways to Healing, PCOP, Programs

The Elizabeth Fry Society (EFry) has many programs to help people involved with the legal system who want to have a better future. One of these programs is the Prison Community Outreach Program, also known as PCOP. The program works to support women, during and after incarceration, to work towards their goals to empower personal change. While working on these individual goals, EFry keeps a larger goal in mind, which is to help the women break the cycle of recidivism. Many women experience criminalization as a direct result of poverty and trauma; therefore, many of the programs that support the PCOP team are focused on addressing the core issues that led to being charged.

The case managers that work directly with the clients have noticed many positive effects on the clients. They have found that by engaging in services, the women find structure and guidance, as well as a listening ear, while incarcerated. In the long term, women gain independence through gaining stability, returning to employment and addressing their core issues that led to their criminalization. The program assists women in finding housing or housing programs to reduce the chances of them returning into homelessness. Having a stable residence reduces the chances of women returning into old lifestyles.

EFry relies on the generous contributions of donations to assist women to re-establish themselves in the community. The majority of donations go directly to supporting housing, and other basic needs for women and their families.

“It’s rewarding to see someone previously street and drug enmeshed make changes that stick.” – PCOP Case Manager