The accessibility of the justice system for Indigenous people in Canada is of significant concern. Several studies and reports have shown that Indigenous people, including youth, are overrepresented at every stage of the criminal justice process, yet underrepresented in the administration of justice in Canada. While the reasons for this are complex, the lack of culturally appropriate educational programming and supports, coupled with the effects of racism, colonialism and the devaluation of Indigenous cultures and identities are widely recognized as significant barriers.
Additionally, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action contain recommendations focused on the need for a responsive solution to eliminating the over-representation of Indigenous youth in the justice system, and for an increase in programming tailored toward Indigenous youth.
IYOP responds to these concerns and calls to action by offering programming that not only increases the students’ knowledge about the justice system and their critical thinking and leadership skills, but also enhances the volunteers’ cultural humility. The program is celebrated for advancing reconciliation by reducing alienation between the justice sector and Indigenous communities. In the long term, the program’s goals are to combat the overrepresentation of Indigenous youth in the justice system, and to cultivate a more inclusive, diverse, and empathetic legal profession.