Pubdate: Thu, 04 Dec 2014
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2014 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Mia Rabson
Page: A8
Bookmark: (Drug Courts)


No New Clients Until Feds Confirm Funding

OTTAWA - The federal government is going to renew funding for the 
Winnipeg Drug Treatment Court, but the province won't start admitting 
new clients to the program again until it gets more details from 
Ottawa on what the new agreement will entail.

Federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay's spokeswoman recently 
confirmed agreements to help fund six provincial drug treatment 
courts will be renewed after they expire at the end of March.

"The drug treatment court (DTC) model is a valuable alternative to 
the correctional system for drug-addicted offenders," said Clarissa 
Lamb in an emailed statement. "Through the collaboration and 
co-operation between health and court authorities, positive outcomes 
for the drug-addicted offender are being achieved."

That was news to the province, which has never heard back from MacKay 
after Andrew Swan, who was then Manitoba's justice minister, wrote to 
him about the drug courts last April. The court stopped accepting new 
clients last May, fearing Ottawa was going to walk away from its 
$500,000 annual commitment. It takes a client one to two years to 
complete the drug court program, and provincial justice officials 
didn't want clients left high and dry midway through.

Provincial Justice Minister James Allum said he is pleased Ottawa is 
coming back to the table but will await details of the new funding 
plan before passing full comment.

"This is an indispensable instrument of justice," Allum said.

Allum's spokeswoman told the Free Press Wednesday the province won't 
start admitting new clients to the drug court again until more 
details of the new funding arrangement are known.

"When the federal Department of Justice confirms what the funding 
will be, the intake for the court can resume," said Rachel Morgan. 
"The primary concern of the court is that participants have time to 
complete relevant programming."

There are six federally funded drug treatment courts in Canada, 
including one in Winnipeg. The Winnipeg court was the only one known 
to have stopped admitting new clients. Drug courts in Toronto, Ottawa 
and Regina continue to operate normally, awaiting a rejigging of the 
program from Ottawa.

Grace Froese, executive director of the Edmonton Drug Treatment 
Court, said discussions were underway regarding what to do in that 
city pending a decision from Ottawa.

A spokesman for the solicitor general in British Columbia did not 
respond to repeated requests for information about the Vancouver Drug 
Treatment Court.

There are some provincially run drug treatment courts in Alberta, 
Saskatchewan and Ontario that are outside the federal program.

Ottawa has provided $500,000 a year to the Addictions Foundation of 
Manitoba for the Winnipeg Drug Treatment Court. Manitoba has 
contributed about $450,000 annually. The court was established in 
2005, and about 70 offenders have successfully completed the program. 
Offenders are only eligible if their crimes are non-violent and are 
the result of a drug addiction. They must plead guilty to the 
offence, undergo frequent drug testing and counselling and make 
regular court appearances.

About 16 per cent of the program's graduates reoffend. About 66 per 
cent of people released from a provincial jail in Manitoba go on to 
commit another offence, as do 32 per cent of those given conditional 
sentences and 28 per cent of those placed on probation.

Lamb said the only difference in the new funding is it will be 
provided to the provinces directly instead of non-governmental 
organizations like the AFM.

"Justice Canada is working with its provincial counterparts, 
including Manitoba, to ensure that the necessary funding agreements 
are in place for April 1, 2015," said Lamb.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom