|Frequently Asked Questions|
The Family Justice Review Committee is a group of citizens of good standing in the community who provide assistance to families in the community on issues relating to justice, fairness, equality and accountability. The committee provides leadership in the community by developing guidelines and making recommendations to legal and health care professionals based on input from a cross section of concerned citizens and their families from within the community. Currently the efforts of the committee focus mainly on issues that affect families in the area of separation, divorce, child welfare and family law. Members contribute their efforts in accordance to the founding principals and defined procedures which govern the activities of members of the committee.
The committee also helps develop community standards relating to these issues and provides input to various other groups or organizations to ensure that the voice of the community in respect to justice for its fellow citizens is heard and respected.
The committee works closely with other groups and individuals in the community who support the goal of bringing justice to the people in the most cost effective and expedient manner. Legal or health care professionals, who may wish to bring additional resources of the community to assist their clients, may call upon the Committee for its help as well.
The goal of Family Justice Review Committee is to promote positive change in the legal process so that citizens can have a system of justice that all can be proud of. Members of the Committee wish to see that judges and lawyers are respected in their communities for their wisdom and honesty. It is the desire of members that the legal system and the community work together to ensure that the justice system serves both the needs of individuals and the needs of society.
The Committee will address and help resolve issues affecting families such as;
∑ Use of false allegations and misleading statements to disadvantage another person in a legal action.
∑ Denial of access to children and non-payment of child support.
∑ Misuse of legal process intended to unfairly disadvantage one party in an action.
∑ Hostile parenting, parental alienation and situations where children are manipulating parents into conflict.
∑ Abuse of government tax funded services, such as legal aid and court services.
∑ Violations of court Orders.
∑ Flawed or biased assessments or doctorís reports.
∑ Conflict involving children and/or parents.
∑ Unnecessary litigation for the purpose of profiting
The committee will work co-operatively and provide community input to other individuals or organizations such as:
∑ Local legal and health care professionals and their associations.
∑ Local law enforcement professionals and their agencies.
∑ The judges and the courts of justice.
Regional welfare and legal aid agencies.
The objective of the Committee is to help ensure fairness and justice to families in the community by bringing increased accountability to the system. The committee helps to ensure that families are treated with respect and that justice is truly served in an open, accountable and unbiased process. Through its involvement, the Committee also hopes to reduce the amount of involvement necessary by the legal system in dealing with family related problems and to make the system of dealing with families more family friendly and less adversarial.
Membership on the committee is open to men and women of all racial and cultural backgrounds. Anyone who is a credible member of the community in which they live can join. Because the committee was established as an independent civilian body required at times to review the matters relating to legal or health care professionals, members of those professions are excluded from being members of the board of directors. Legal and health care professionals in the community are, however, allowed to participate on the Committee's professional advisory group.
The Family Justice Review Committee Program is a project of the National Association for Public and Private Accountability (N.A.P.P.A.). The Reverend Dorian A. Baxter is the founder and National Chairman of N.A.P.P.A. Each justice committee operates independently in their own community with their own board of directors. N.A.P.P.A. serves as the administrator to help local committees share information and to maintain standardized procedures. N.A.P.P.A. co-ordinates meetings on a regional, provincial and national basis.
The program was developed in response to a growing number of individuals and families experiencing difficulty with the court system and their demands to make the court system more friendly, affordable and accountable.
It is the long term goal of the Family Justice Review program to have independent committees established in each and every judicial district in Canada. In judicial districts that cover a large geographical area, smaller sub committees may operate within individual communities within one district. These subcommittees will co-ordinate their efforts with the other subcommittees in the same judicial district.
Citizens who are facing difficulties first make an application to the committee to have their matter dealt with. If their application meets the acceptance criteria of the committee, the applicants are given the opportunity to have their matter reviewed by the Committee in accordance with review procedures.
With less complicated issues, the committee will work together behind the scenes to make recommendations to resolve issues.
With more complex and challenging issues, the committee can conduct a thorough investigation and public review of a matter. Similar to a jury or tribunal, members of the committee will review facts and conduct an independent investigation using the resources available to them. Hearings open to the public will be available when requested.
The committee, upon completion of its review, will submit its findings and recommendations to the appropriate parties involved (e.g. the parties, courts, community, etc.)
Generally, members of the Committee are volunteers and get paid only for the expenses they incur. Reviewing of cases is done by volunteers from the community out of their sense of civic duty. Some members may be paid should they assume a more active role with the committee's work where the amount of time contributed may be significant. Some may even participate on a full time basis, choosing to become fully trained in the area of community justice such as a case reviewer or investigator.
Where parties making application to the committee to have their matters heard have available financial resources, then fees will be charged. In this situation, case reviewers and investigators will be paid for their services, leaving the resources of volunteer members to handle matters where families do not have the financial resources to pay for services.
As with most non-profit organizations, there will be paid staff to handle administration and paperwork. Some members may wish to participate in an administration capacity as a volunteer or paid staff member. In all cases, the committee works to ensure that its resources are used to help make justice to families affordable and with the least amount of dependency on taxpayerís monies such as legal aid.
Members of the Committee can contribute in a number of different ways. No matter in what position(s) members become involved, it provides a valuable opportunity to learn how our system of justice works and how to effectively deal with matters involving injustice and conflict resolution.
When members of the community sign up as members and wish to participate in any given specific area, they will be given detailed information about their particular area of involvement. Some of the areas in which members can contribute are listed below.
General Policies and Procedure Advisor
One way in which members can contribute which requires little time is to assist in the committee with the development of its policies and procedures. All members of the committee can help develop a community response and position on matters that are brought before the committee for consideration. On matters of policy and procedure, members will be contacted by phone at various times throughout the year and asked to contribute their opinions and suggestions through questionnaires or phone polls.
There will also be public meetings of the committee where attendance is entirely voluntary, where members will discuss in an open forum, issues affecting justice in the community. Members will always have the opportunity to present matters and to express their opinion on any matter which affects justice in the community. At any time, Members can contact the committee to have an issue dealt with by the committee.
General volunteers can do as little or as much as their time and interest allows. In addition to any of the other positions with the committee general members may perform, on a voluntary basis, any of the following tasks:
Answering and returning phone inquiries
Case Investigator for Complaints About Legal Professionals
Investigators will handle complaints from the public regarding lawyers in the community as well as others in the legal field. Investigators will gather information for submission to a complaint hearing or to a full committee when disciplinary measures are being considered against any particular lawyer in the community. Investigators will assist those maintaining the Community Certified Lawyer Referral service
Case Investigator for Family Matters
Investigators do the actual investigation work required in a case. They review court documents and any other materials and report back to the committee with their findings for the committee to review. Where appropriate, investigators may attend court, visit parties in their homes, speak with children, look at financial records and help direct parties to appropriate resources.
Investigators usually work with parties who have previously requested the involvement of the committee and who have agreed to participate with the committee on a fact finding mission. Investigators will always work in teams of two or more people and will in most cases work in conjunction with various legal and health care professionals.
Assist families with Conflict Resolution Mechanisms
Some members of the committee could be asked to deal with a specific problem that may be affecting your family. For example, members could be asked to deal situations involving access or scheduling, the release of school or medical records or to assist in resolving a violation of a court Order. Conflict resolution persons could be asked to help deal with any problem that a member of a family may be experiencing. In all cases a proper record is made of any incident.
Case reviewers will study materials that the case investigators have collected and then scrutinize the information independently to see that it was gathered from all sources and to supervise the investigator's work. Members of the committee will be asked to provide their input and opinion.
In some serious and complex situations, case reviewers could be asked to participate in a committee hearing, where committee members will discuss the case as a group.
Court Observers & Supporters
Some members of the committee may attend court just to observe what is happening a case and to provide support at the courthouse or in other meetings. Case investigators may also fill this role at times.
Commissioner of Oaths
Some members of the Committee may become one of the Commissioner of Oaths that the group may assign to assist members of the public. A member who is designated as a Commissioner of Oaths by the Province can witness the signing of various legal and court documents. Part of the groupís service to the community will be to provide reasonably priced services to those in the community with free services being provided to those in the community who are financially disadvantaged
The amount of time that any member contributes to committee work is entirely up to the discretion of the individual member. Some may contribute as little time as several hours in a year and assist as general volunteers or temporary conflict resolution persons while others may become more actively involved on a daily or case by case basis. Some may even chose to become involved on a regular full time or part time basis and be paid for their time. Members may get involved in training themselves in such areas as mediation, paralegal or conflict resolution services. Others may enjoy participating in community discussions about issues of justice that arise in the community through meeting or phone work.
Being a member of a Family Justice Review Committee in your community can be an educational and rewarding experience for you and other members of your family. At the same time, it tells others that your family believes in justice and that you want your community to be a better and more just place to work and live. For those who may be considering a career in the legal or social services sector, work on the committee provides valuable background to these careers.
At some point in our lives most of us will find ourselves, members of our family or our friends affected by legal proceedings. Being a member of the committee will make you and all members of your family more familiar with the legal system, thus making yourselves better prepared should you find yourself in court at some time in the future. Parents send their children to school in order for them to have an education and to prepare them for the workforce, yet few of us ever prepare them for the day when they may be in court and where they may be in a position to lose everything they have ever worked for.
In addition to the benefits that you or your family may receive, all those who help know that their contribution is helping children and their families who may be facing difficulties. This in turn benefits our entire community in many social and economic ways.
We all have an interest in making our community a better place to live. The kind of community we build today will be the kind of community that our children will inherit tomorrow. Your contribution can make a difference.
The work of the committee members will reduce litigation and conflict within the community by letting people know that others in the community do care about truth, justice, and equality and, when necessary, will come to the assistance of their fellow citizens to ensure these principals are maintained.