On the Front Line: Legal Information Training for Frontline Workers Supporting Clients when Interacting with Police or the Legal System

Project Name

On the Front Line: Legal Information Training for Frontline Workers Supporting Clients when Interacting with Police or the Legal System

Project Partners

Lead Agency: Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services Corporation
Partner Agencies: Thunder Bay Indian Friendship Centre, Ontario Native Women’s Association – Thunder Bay, Thunder Bay Police Service
Legal Partner: Ontario Justice Education Network

Project Summary

This project will provide training to a wide range of frontline staff working with Aboriginal communities on understanding policing powers and the legal process as it relates to criminal justice, as well as the rights people have when interacting with the police.

Legal Topics for Training

The focus of the training is police powers. Information to be covered includes:

  • individual rights when interacting with police, warrants, etc.
  • search and seizure powers
  • how to file a police complaint
  • information about the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD)

Target Audience

The training will be offered to the following groups:

  • frontline workers who support and work with members of the Aboriginal community on a daily basis
  • staff working with street people through collaboration with the Urban Aboriginal Strategy and their groups
  • community leaders such as Elders and faith leaders

Key Activities

Training will be delivered through a full day in-person workshop with use of sharing of personal experiences, presentations and discussion. The day will include a range of training strategies including panel presentations, small group discussions, and some use of audio-visual materials with opportunities for questions and dialogue.

The second portion of the project will be another in-person workshop to be scheduled for four to six weeks after the full-day workshop. This will be an opportunity for frontline workers to share their experiences since the training with each other, and with representatives from the various criminal justice sectors. This will also give them a chance to ask any questions that have risen since the original training day, and seek clarification on issues and actions that they may have witnessed through their work in the community.

Need for Training

The level of violence and abuse experienced by community members at the hands of police has been identified as a serious problem for a number of years. With the greater use and access to social media, incidents that previously would have remained hidden are now being shared widely across the communities and entire region. Knowing a person’s rights when interacting with the police, knowing what rights a member of the police service has, and ultimately knowing if and when police personnel are overstepping their authority are critically important aspects of community safety. This knowledge is also an important way to begin to develop a stronger sense of agency, self–esteem, power and position for members of the Aboriginal community. Without knowledge of the law and, in particular, the legal powers of police, individuals are completely vulnerable and at risk for violation of their rights.

One of the programs of Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services is public legal education. Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services is limited in its ability to do this work in the 49 Nishnawbe Aski Nation communities by its available funding. This project, with targeted funding, will allow Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services to work closely with relevant and active agencies in the Thunder Bay area to meet an urgent community need and to develop training and provide resources/referrals that respond to this critically important community issue.

Innovative Approach

This project is innovative in that it intends to develop the content largely by gathering stories, experiences and insights from the potential participants. This will ensure that the legal training is rooted in the lived realities of people from the remote communities.

The project will also be shared with First Nations tribal councils, provincial/territorial organizations, anti-racism groups, and other agencies interested in using or adapting this project.