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Andrew Parsons looking for solutions to issues at criminal justice summit in Corner Brook

Justice Minister Andrew Parsons is seen at a criminal justice summit hosted by his department at the Glynmill Inn in Corner Brook on Friday.
Justice Minister Andrew Parsons is seen at a criminal justice summit hosted by his department at the Glynmill Inn in Corner Brook on Friday. - Diane Crocker

Justice Minister Andrew Parsons was looking for some frank and open discussion at a criminal justice summit his department hosted in Corner Brook on Friday.

To get it he filled a meeting room at the Glynmill Inn with people who work in and alongside the system.

Among the approximately 50 people were lawyers, judges, people who work with correctional services, victim services and probation services, police forces, indigenous groups and social advocacy groups.

They were broken up into groups with a mixed representation at each table.

It’s the third summit that’s been held.

“We all know what the issues are. OK. There’s no issue that’s going to be brought up today that I’m not aware of,” said Parsons.

What he wanted to find are the solutions, the fixes for those issues.

“If we’re going to make improvements, we can’t be afraid to be bold.”

While there are issues that are systemic across the province, Parson said each area has its own challenges and that is why the summits have been taking place regionally.

“I’ve always said that what’s working and not working in St. John’s you can’t apply that to Labrador, you can’t apply that to Port aux Basques.

“Everywhere is different and has their own little justice ecosystem.”

Take the court in Stephenville, which he said operates with a very small staff.

“What they do is amazing for the sheer numbers that they have go through. But it’s because of the people that work there.”

And he’d like to find out what they do that makes it work. It might now work somewhere else, but it could provide insight as the department tackles the issue.

That’s part of what the summits are all about, finding things that will guide the department in making decisions.

“We are challenged to take it and find a way to improve the system,” said Parsons.

Once the final session to be held in central takes place and the common themes and suggestions have been put together, Parsons said he’ll be looking at short-, mid- and long-term goals that will bring about improvements to the system.

West coast issues

Mental health and addictions — Parsons said it’s not just within the justice system and ties into the health-care system.

“In order for us to make that part work in Justice, well, we need to have the supports there within the health system, you need to be able to get to see counsellors.” 

Geography — There’s a lot of ground to cover and Parsons said the department needs to make better use of technology to do so.

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