Have you wondered what Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services is, and why we exist?
Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services Corporation was founded in 1990 to serve the legal and justice needs of the Nishnawe Aski Nation First Nation communities, and to improve access to justice for these communities.
Brief Overview of Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services
A number of issues with the administration of justice in the remote areas of Northern Ontario were identified in the early 1980s. Among the major issues were:
- The logistics of operating fly-in courts in the North;
- Lack of time in remote communities for defense counsel to prepare their cases;
- Lack of trust in legal counsel on the part of community members;
- Lack of understanding of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) communities and culture by duty and defense counsel;
- Inadequate Native Court Worker services;
- Issues arising from the adversarial nature of the justice system which is in contrast to the First Nations traditional justice processes;
- Lack of consistency in the justice personnel serving NAN communities; and
- The absence of public legal education to inform community residents about the Euro-Canadian justice and legal systems and their rights within the justice and legal systems.
These problems were widely recognized by Nishnawbe Aski Nation, the Ministry of the Attorney General and other justice system stakeholders.
In 1985, NAN and the Ministry established the Working Group on the Administration of Justice in the Remote North to respond to these concerns. This group had 16 members with equal representation from NAN, the Ministry of the Attorney General, the Ministry of the Solicitor General, Legal Aid Ontario and the private bar. At the first meeting of the Working Group, NAN representatives presented a brief suggesting the establishment of a legal services corporation to serve the residents of the fly-in communities.
The Working Group undertook a number of detailed studies to provide a better understanding of the issues related to the administration of the public legal education needs of the communities and a feasibility study (which looked at two existing legal services corporation models servicing First Nations in the Eastern Arctic and in Arizona).
In 1988, the Chiefs of NAN selected a mixed legal service model, one which would be best suited to the needs of the communities. With support and financial assistance from the Ministry of the Attorney General, Legal Aid Ontario and the Department of Justice Canada, the NAN Chiefs passed Resolution 89/40 – Creating an Interim Board of Directors, charged with the task of implementing a corporation according to the recommendations made by the Technical Team of the Working Group on the Administration of Justice in the Remote North.
Original Vision of NAN Leaders
By Letters Patent dated March 1, 1990, Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services Corporation was created to begin addressing the legal and justice issues of the NAN communities and to begin delivering services and programs in a culturally appropriate manner in furtherance of the original vision of the NAN leaders who saw the need to find ways to address the shortcomings of the administration of justice in the NAN territory.
What We Do Today
It is for the fulfilment of this vision from past NAN leaders that we strive to deliver our programs and services.
NALSC has grown steadily since 1990. NALSC works hard to develop a professional image and to hire qualified staff to carry out the Corporation’s mandate of promoting creative community based justice systems and delivering on a wide range of law-related services to the members of Nishnawbe Aski Nation.
Our innovative and creative programs have made NALSC a leader and at times, an example, for alternatives to justice programs, and we have met with much success in these areas, particularly in the area of Restorative Justice.