Over the past several months, OJEN staff have worked hard to adapt many of our existing public legal education programs for remote delivery… Unfortunately, not all of our programs work well on Zoom or Google Meet, and in some cases, we have had to put programs on hold. The multi-session Youth-Police Dialogues (YPD) program, which relies heavily on in-person engagement among youth, police officers, justice sector volunteers and staff, is one such example.
Although we were not able to offer the YPD program last spring and summer, the need for programming designed to address youth concerns about police interactions remained.
Controversies involving the police dominated the news over the summer. In May, the police killing of George Floyd in the United States caused worldwide outrage. His death triggered massive protests led by the Black Lives Matter movement and focused attention on the ongoing issues of racial injustice. In Toronto, the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet in the presence of police not long after, also resulted in protests. Discussions about policing have become increasingly heated, and defunding police services is a frequent topic of public debate.
OJEN began receiving requests from community organizations for a public legal education program that would give youth a framework for understanding some of these issues. In response, we began developing a two-session online program called Navigating Police Encounters.
Navigating Police Encounters is an online workshop delivered by teleconference to small groups of youth. In the first session, participants discuss their perceptions of policing. They also explore some of the ways in which perceptions are formed and the difference between perception and reality. Session 2 introduces them to the excellent Steps to Justice website, created and maintained by Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO). Youth walk through a six-part scenario depicting different hypothetical situations involving interactions with police. Using the Steps to Justice website, youth learn about their rights when engaging with police and how to navigate the situation to achieve the most positive outcome. In the process, they learn how to use the website to find legal information, including the forms, self-help guides and referral information for legal and social services that may be helpful in working through a future legal problem.
Over the summer, we piloted this program with two youth audiences in Toronto. Four more sessions are in the planning stages for community organizations in Ottawa.
Navigating Police Encounters is currently available for online delivery to community organizations throughout Ontario. For those interested in the program, please contact OJEN’s Director of Outreach.
This program is made possible through funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the Law Foundation of Ontario.