The Hamilton Boldness Project

by Jayne Mallin

The justice system has become a funnel for a wide range of societal problems. In Hamilton, as in other communities, the justice system is overloaded; attempting to deal with challenges for which it was not designed and is not best suited to address. Increasingly, this burden compromises the system’s ability to perform effectively or fairly. As a result, there are negative impacts on all stakeholders – our clients, legal professionals, government agencies and ministries, and taxpayers.

The challenge

How can we reduce inappropriate demand on the formal justice system by meeting that demand, and the real needs of clients, more effectively in different ways and with new partners?

The Hamilton Hack

Legal Aid Ontario invited members of the community to join our Hamilton district staff to challenge, create, and explore, ideas for change. The Hamilton Hack was held on November 29, 2016, with the Boldness Justice Collaboratory, and representatives from the following organizations, community groups and professions:

  • the Ministry of the Attorney General
  • the judiciary
  • police department
  • local board of education
  • social workers
  • not-for-profit organizations from the justice, immigration/settlement and mental health sectors
  • private sector organizations
  • students
  • Six Nations
  • community members with lived experience

The aim of this event was to inspire and challenge the community of Hamilton to bring real innovation and change to those who currently cannot, or do not, have proper access to justice.

The bold goal

At the Hamilton Hack, the group united around a bold goal: 25% reduction of demand on the justice system in our community by 2020. Some of the resulting benefits may be:

  • fewer youth entering the justice system
  • safer, healthier communities
  • less demand on courts
  • early intervention and support for clients before entering the formal family law system

Next steps

There were many innovative ideas generated. A steering committee was formed by Legal Aid Ontario to determine how to move four of these bold ideas forward. The ideas are in the areas of Criminal, Family/Domestic Violence, Immigration, and Aboriginal justice.

A lead for each initiative has been selected and they will be re-engaging Hamilton Hack participants to design models to get us to our bold goal. The Boldness Project social innovation experts we are working with will be meeting with our leads in the coming days to further develop and plan out their next steps. We are targeting implementation of the four bold ideas sometime in 2018.

Stayed tuned for more on this Legal Aid Ontario project as the four bold ideas are further developed.

About The Boldness Project

The Boldness Project is an initiative developed and run by Ric Young, a social innovator in Toronto, to advance the possibility and practice of bold change. It is a movement geared towards accomplishing real social change in the world. Rural and Remote Access to Justice is another fine example of the great work being done as part of The Boldness Project.

Jayne Mallin is the Manager, Criminal Law Services for Legal Aid Ontario’s Hamilton-Kitchener district.