R. Gordon Murray, QC Awarded the 2019 J. Michael MacDonald Access to Justice Award

On June 13, 2019, R. Gordon Murray, QC received the 2019 J. Michael MacDonald Access to Justice Award from the Canadian Bar Association – Nova Scotia. This Award recognizes outstanding contributions to improving access to justice for Nova Scotians who face social and economic barriers.

Gordon was the first Executive Director of the Nova Scotia Legal Aid Commission and devoted his career to ensuring access to justice for the most vulnerable and historically marginalized people in the Province.  His work has truly had a positive impact on the rights and wellbeing of Nova Scotians.

Gord’s commitment to Nova Scotians served by NS Legal Aid did not end with his retirement as Executive Director in 1994. He has continued to be a valued member of the legal aid team by serving as a Director, continuing on legal aid committees, and serving as a volunteer member of NSLA’s internal Executive Committee. To this day, Gordon is truly generous with his time and his wisdom.

NSLA Social Justice Support Worker Provides Help in Cape Breton

Below is a link to a Cape Breton Post article regarding Nova Scotia Legal Aid’s Social Justice Support Worker in Cape Breton.  https://www.capebretonpost.com/news/local/legal-aid-hires-cape-breton-support-worker-311763/#.XNxjPeSPbgk.facebook

For more information, please listen to the Cape Breton CBC Information Morning interview with Nora MacIntosh, Social Justice Support Worker, at the link below.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/programs/informationmorningcapebreton/cape-breton-s-first-ever-legal-aid-social-justice-support-worker-1.5139989

Get in touch for social justice help in Cape Breton by contacting Nora at 902-563-2296 or toll-free at 1-877-563-2295.

NSLA Indigenous Social Worker at Millbrook Health Fair

On May 16, 2019, Crystal Hill, Indigenous Social Worker, presented at the Millbrook Health Fair. The Fair was a great opportunity to meet with service providers and learn about what they have to offer.

 

Legal Aid Bears in Support of Jordan’s Principle

Pictured below are some of the NSLA Bears in support of Bear Witness Day on May 10, 2019. Further details regarding this great initiative can be found at:  https://fncaringsociety.com/BearWitness

Nova Scotia Legal Aid Hires African Nova Scotian Social Worker for Youth, Criminal and Family Matters

Nova Scotia Legal Aid (NSLA) is pleased to announce its recent hire of Charnell Brooks as our first African Nova Scotian Social Worker (ASW). In this new role as the ASW, Charnell will be responsible for the delivery of social work services to our African Nova Scotian clients. Charnell will provide social work expertise to assist our staff and our African Nova Scotian clients, in particular those involved with the Children and Family Services Act, Criminal Code, Youth Criminal Justice Act, and Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Charnell will also be connecting with African Nova Scotian communities and service providers around the Province both to promote the services NSLA can provide and to ensure familiarity with services available to our clients.

On the importance of this new role for NSLA, Executive Director, Megan Longley, QC – ”Given the over-representation of African Nova Scotians in criminal and child protection systems it is essential that our staff are supported in providing the best service to clients and the best information to courts. Until we understand and share the history and cultural context of our clients, barriers to meaningful access to justice will remain in place”.

Charnell Brooks holds a Bachelor of Social Work degree from Dalhousie University and has over 12 years of experience working with marginalized and vulnerable populations and most recently worked as a social worker with the Department of Community Services. In June 2016, she was asked to present the amended Children and Family Services Act to African Nova Scotia communities.

In its Strategic Plan, NSLA recognizes African Nova Scotians are over-represented in criminal and child protection systems. The historical uniqueness of African Nova Scotian community and experience, which includes generations of systemic racism, means culturally aware and competent service must be delivered to our clients.

The creation of an African Nova Scotian Social Worker (ASW) to work with and support clients in the criminal and child protection systems is supported by a grant from the Law Foundation of Nova Scotia.

For more information, please contact Charlene Moore QC, Service Delivery Director, Nova Scotia Legal Aid at 902-420-6589, email: Charlene.Moore@nslegalaid.ca or visit the Nova Scotia Legal Aid website: www.nslegalaid.ca

Nova Scotia Legal Aid Improves Access to Justice Through Hire of Social Justice Support Worker for Cape Breton

Nova Scotia Legal Aid (NSLA) is pleased to announce its recent hire of Nora MacIntosh in a new role for NSLA as a Social Justice Support Worker (SJSW) for the Cape Breton region. The SJSW will play a significant role in delivering legal information to communities and clients and assisting clients navigating housing and income security administrative tribunal processes. The SJSW will provide a range of services to clients to ensure better client outcomes and improved access to justice.  She will be travelling to various communities throughout the Cape Breton region to meet with people and communities who face transportation barriers to accessing our services.

With respect to the impact this new role will have for people living in Cape Breton, Executive Director of NSLA, Megan Longley, QC, commented, ”We know that many people do not receive the information or help they need to understand their rights or the processes required when faced with legal issues. By having a dedicated person who will be going into communities to provide information and service, as well as offer support to other service providers, barriers faced by people with issues relating to their housing or income will be significantly reduced.”

Nora MacIntosh most recently worked with the Avalon Sexual Assault Center and was primarily responsible for drafting policy to protect the privacy interests of clients. She provided legal information and advocacy support to staff and clients navigating a broad range of legal issues. Nora is committed to advancing the rights of vulnerable communities and is a member of the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project and Board of Trustees for the Dalhousie Legal Aid Service sitting on the Community Development and Law Reform Committee.

The creation of the Social Justice Support Worker for Cape Breton is supported by a grant from the Law Foundation of Nova Scotia.

For more information, please contact Charlene Moore QC, Service Delivery Director, Nova Scotia Legal Aid at 902-420-6589, email: Charlene.Moore@nslegalaid.ca or visit the Nova Scotia Legal Aid website: www.nslegalaid.ca

Chair – Nova Scotia Legal Aid Commission

We are pleased to announce that George Ash has been appointed as the Chair of the Nova Scotia Legal Aid Commission effective March 30, 2019. George has been a Commission Board member since May 1, 2012.

George Ash (B.Kin, B.Ed., LL.B.) is a Partner and Chair of the Real Estate Group with BOYNECLARKE LLP. George practices in both Real Property, and Wills and Estate administrations.

As a former inner city school teacher, George taught for four years before deciding to return to Dalhousie University to study Law. George joined BOYNECLARKE LLP after being called to the bar in 2005, and has been a valuable member of the firm since.

George takes pride in his involvement in the African Nova Scotian community, being a former member of the African Nova Scotia Music Association and past Chair for the Advisory Council for the Indigenous Black & Mi’kmaq Initiative at Schulich School of Law.

George is a graduate of the Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University. He holds Kinesiology and Education Degrees from the University of New Brunswick. George has a wife and two sons, and is an active golfer.

We are confident that under George’s leadership Nova Scotia Legal Aid will continue to improve access to justice for Nova Scotians.

Statement from the NSLA Equity and Racial Diversity Committee on Halifax Street Checks Report by Dr. Scot Wortley

The Equity and Racial Diversity Committee (ERDC) on behalf of Nova Scotia Legal Aid (NSLA) welcomes the report of Dr. Scot Wortley on Halifax street checks. The profound results show that African Nova Scotian males are grossly over-represented in the street check data. Dr. Wortley in summarizing his findings, stated as follows:

Personally, after years of examining these issues, I believe that only a small proportion of the racial disparity in police checks can be explained by overt, malicious racism. Although the negative impact of a few “bad apples” cannot be completely discounted, I believe that most police officers in Halifax, and other Canadian cities, are professionals who try to conduct themselves in an objective manner. They certainly do not consider themselves racist and thus feel deeply insulted when accused of racial bias or profiling. However, I do think that implicit or unconscious bias can play a role in who the police “feel” are suspicious and thus deserving of police attention (including street checks).  I also feel that the police – like other segments of society – engage in forms of “statistical discrimination” that can have a profound impact on policing outcomes. Much like the actuarial reasoning practices employed by insurance companies, police engage in forms of criminal profiling that target the usual suspects – the poor, the young, men, racial minorities. These forms of informal risk assessment can directly contribute to the overrepresentation of young Black men in street check statistics. Finally, we must also explore the impact of institutional forms of racism – including police deployment practices – that can have a hugely disproportionate impact on Black and other minority communities.

Dr. Wortley in his recommendations, stated as follows,

Street checks should not be conducted solely on the basis of a civilian’s personal characteristics including race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation or combination thereof. Police officers should not engage in actuarial discrimination and stop, detain and document civilians because their demographic profile is consistent with criminal profiles derived from aggregate crime statistics. Decisions must be based on individual level, not group-level suspicions. Group-level suspicions are consistent with the concept of racial profiling. The policy should also explicitly state that street checks should not be conducted simply because a civilian is observed walking or driving late at night or is physically present in a high crime community. Street checks are also not justified when a civilian has exercised their legal rights and refused to answer police questions. Street checks are also not justified simply because an individual has exercised their legal rights and decided to end an interaction with a police officer. Rightful noncompliance with police requests or commands does not provide the legal justification for increased police suspicion or street checks. Finally, the regulation should explicitly state that officers should refrain from investigatory police stops and/or street checks based on a hunch or intuition that a person may be involved in criminal activity.

NSLA affirms that street checks, or any form of police-civilian interaction, including police stops, must be within the legal parameters set out in the Nova Scotia Human Rights Code, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, legislation and the common law.

We are here to assist Nova Scotians by protecting their rights and freedoms and ensuring a fair hearing in a court of law or before a tribunal. In keeping with our Strategic Plan, NSLA remains committed to enhancing access to justice for historically disadvantaged Nova Scotians. In meeting that commitment, we recognize the over-representation of African Nova Scotians in the criminal justice and child protection systems.  We will continue to provide culturally responsive service by educating our staff on these issues and by bringing cultural impact to the forefront on matters before the Court.

We want to work in collaboration with the African Nova Scotian Decade for People of African Descent (ANSDPAD) Coalition with the goal of addressing systemic issues, including overcoming any barriers to access to justice. On behalf of our clients, NSLA will be proactive in engaging the Nova Scotia Government with an aim to be included as a stakeholder in discussions of how to resolve this issue moving forward.

It may be of assistance to read the article authored by Angela Simmonds entitled, “Racial Profiling: Know Your Rights” from our partners at the Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia.

2019-2020 Business Plan

We are pleased to share the Nova Scotia Legal Aid Commission’s 2019-2020 Business Plan:  NSLAC 2019-2020 Business Plan. The Business Plan can also be found in Legal Aid Publications under the About Us tab.

New Careers Page!

Are you looking join our team? Check out our new Careers page for current employment opportunities: https://www.nslegalaid.ca/careers/