A delegation of Canadian Members of Parliament got a first-hand look at some of the work their Government has been doing in the Caribbean through their Impact Justice project.
Today, the five officials, including Yasmin Ratansi, the Chair of the Canadian Branch of the CPA; Senator Rosemary Moodie; Chandra Arya; Robert Kitchen and Secretary to the Delegation, Remi Bourgault, toured the Law Library at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies and also learned more about the work the project had done throughout the region over the past five years.
Regional Project Director Professor Velma Newton stated that the project began in 2014 and while the first phase ended in 2019, it was extended to 2022. She explained what the programme, funded by the Canadian Government in collaboration with UWI and other regional institutions to the tune of CDN$22.2 million, was able to accomplish in its first phase.
“We work with governments, Bar associations and civil society groups, and our role is to draft legislation for governments that they can use, or adapt in full or in part, to fulfil their promises to the electorate and citizens. We have done nine bills covering areas such as mediation, trademarks and business names. After Hurricane Maria in 2017, the Canadian Government through Impact Justice was the first in to draft legislation to establish a new healthcare framework for Dominica, including the setting up of a new hospital.
“In our alternative dispute resolution programme, we have trained over one thousand mediators across the region and we have done some training in restorative practices as well as arbitration. And now we have done the basic training, we are now training trainers and are setting up mediation centres, starting in Barbados, Belize, St Vincent and the Grenadines and hopefully Grenada by the end of this year.”
She added that Impact Justice was also trying to encourage members of the legal profession to embrace continuing education. “In much the same way accountants and doctors see the importance of keeping up to date with their profession, we would like lawyers to develop that same mindset. Some believe that they can use it, others not so much, so we are looking at that.”
Deputy Principal of UWI, Cave Hill Campus, Professor Winston Moore, stated that “UWI has a long tradition of enhancing Caribbean development and Impact Justice has helped in this respect. For example, between 2015 and 2019, some 2,373 law books were donated to the University of Technology in Jamaica, the University of Guyana, the University of Suriname and the UWI campuses.”
Professor Newton added, “These books cover subject areas relating to the main elements in Canada’s global affairs programme, such as gender affairs, the environment and human rights. In purchasing the books, we did not only focus on what our libraries needed, but we ensured we got books covering the subject matter the Impact Justice project was working on, such as alternative dispute resolution.”
Before taking the Canadian officials on a tour of the Law Library, Dean of the Law Faculty, David Berry, himself a Canadian, noted that, “This faculty has a regional focus in that we have students from all over the Caribbean, so we teach on a comparative basis. That is, when looking at one specific area of the law such as family law, we look at the differences between them in the various islands. We also have some compulsory courses in our programme which are only offered as options for final year students in Canada, such as Public International Law. We are also negotiating for a joint degree programme that will enable Caribbean students to practise law in the Caribbean as well as within any province in Canada.” (DH)