This blog post is based on the Chief Justice’s speech delivered at the June 7, 2022 launch event
On June 7, 2022—nearly three years after the signing of the Access to Justice Triple Aim—I was pleased to take part in the launch of the Transform the Family Justice System (TFJS) Collaborative.
The TFJS Collaborative arises directly from A2JBC’s commitment in 2019 to the Access to Justice Triple Aim—a single goal with three interrelated components:
– Improved population access to justice
– Improved user experience of access to justice, and
– Improved costs.
We are very energized by the prospect of a health and justice alliance to do this work, as we know that the justice sector cannot do it alone. The concepts of both the Triple Aim and the TFJS Collaborative are indeed borrowed from the health sector. We also know that we need to expand to find alliances in other sectors and communities as well, such as Child Welfare and Education and local communities, which were also represented at yesterday’s launch.
The story of how we got here
Having obtained widespread commitment to the Triple Aim, A2JBC turned its mind to how we might implement the Triple Aim in the family justice system, where we knew the need was high.
In the fall of 2019:
– The A2JBC Leadership Group was educated about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and reflected on the unintentional harm that the family justice system inflicts on children, youth, and families experiencing trauma related to family justice issues.
– We learned that our traditional adversarial model of resolving conflict tends to escalate conflict and toxic stress, and thus contributes to the negative impacts of ACEs.
– We committed to taking leadership in changing the family justice system so that it no longer did unintentional harm but instead promoted child well-being.
In early 2020, the A2JBC Steering Committee accepted the concept of a cross-sector Collaborative directed at transforming the family justice system so that it is focused on achieving family well-being, and agreed to take leadership by developing the concept.
In the last year and a half, A2JBC has been working on laying the foundations for this launch.
Recently the A2JBC Leadership Group gave the green light and here we are now celebrating the launch of the TFJS Collaborative.
While celebrating that the Collaborative has been born, we understand that like any baby at birth, it has a lot of developing to do and it will need the support of people and organizations across sectors to grow to be a strong entity that will make a difference for families.
I am grateful for the engagement and contributions of so many who have participated during the laying-the-foundations phase, and I look forward to your ongoing support. I want to particularly thank Jane Morley, QC, who has truly put her heart, mind, and soul into this work.
What do we mean by some of the terms we use?
We define the family justice system broadly to include more than the courts. When we use the term “family justice system”, we are thinking of all services and all processes related to the prevention, management, and resolution of family justice issues.
Family justice issues include separation and divorce, child abuse and neglect, and intimate partner violence.
Influenced by input from our Indigenous colleagues, we speak now of family well-being, which includes children and youth and also recognizes the importance of family to the healthy development and sense of belonging of all children and youth.
When we say “family” we do not mean just the nuclear family but are adopting the broader Indigenous view of family that includes relatives and other trusted members of the child’s community.
Why do we think the family justice system need transforming?
The short answer is because the well-being of families demands it.
We are facing a public health issue—the immediate, long-term, and intergenerational impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACEs. Many ACEs are featured in the family justice system. Rather than exacerbating the impact of ACEs, we need to find ways to reduce harm and support families facing family justice issues. This is an urgent need, as was made clear—if it was not already—as we heard from our guest speakers yesterday, who bravely shared their personal experiences with the family justice system.
The transforming agent here is a shift in thinking that puts children, youth, and families at the centre and understands the justice system as part of a holistic, intersectoral support system for families. When we look at the family justice system through the eyes of children, youth, and family members, we see things differently—and that new perspective will inevitably be transformative—we will begin to do things differently.
To help us understand this different perspective and to come up with creative solutions, we need to open up the justice sector and invite in voices from beyond the usual people that gather to work on justice reform. We need to engage people with lived experience and leaders and service providers in other sectors. That is why I was so glad to see the cross-sectoral participation of so many at yesterday’s launch.
The Collaborative is about action. Attaining the goal of a transformed family justice system focused on family well-being will take years, but the work to achieve that goal starts now; it builds on the excellent work already being done by many who attended yesterday’s event and beyond, and it will involve many others who are yet to be engaged.
To find out more, please visit the new, stand-alone TFJS Collaborative website at www.transformfamilyjusticebc.ca.
I look forward to walking with you on this path that I am confident will make a difference for children, youth, and families in BC.