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This article was published 4/12/2014 (1908 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA — The federal government is going to renew funding for the Winnipeg Drug Treatment Court, but the province won't start admitting new clients to the program again until it gets more details from Ottawa on what the new agreement will entail.
Federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay's spokeswoman recently confirmed agreements to help fund six provincial drug treatment courts will be renewed after they expire at the end of March.
"The drug treatment court (DTC) model is a valuable alternative to the correctional system for drug-addicted offenders," said Clarissa Lamb in an emailed statement. "Through the collaboration and co-operation between health and court authorities, positive outcomes for the drug-addicted offender are being achieved."
That was news to the province, which has never heard back from MacKay after Andrew Swan, who was then Manitoba's justice minister, wrote to him about the drug courts last April. The court stopped accepting new clients last May, fearing Ottawa was going to walk away from its $500,000 annual commitment. It takes a client one to two years to complete the drug court program, and provincial justice officials didn't want clients left high and dry midway through.
Provincial Justice Minister James Allum said he is pleased Ottawa is coming back to the table but will await details of the new funding plan before passing full comment.
"This is an indispensable instrument of justice," Allum said.
Allum's spokeswoman told the Free Press Wednesday the province won't start admitting new clients to the drug court again until more details of the new funding arrangement are known.
"When the federal Department of Justice confirms what the funding will be, the intake for the court can resume," said Rachel Morgan. "The primary concern of the court is that participants have time to complete relevant programming."
There are six federally funded drug treatment courts in Canada, including one in Winnipeg. The Winnipeg court was the only one known to have stopped admitting new clients. Drug courts in Toronto, Ottawa and Regina continue to operate normally, awaiting a rejigging of the program from Ottawa.
Grace Froese, executive director of the Edmonton Drug Treatment Court, said discussions were underway regarding what to do in that city pending a decision from Ottawa.
A spokesman for the solicitor general in British Columbia did not respond to repeated requests for information about the Vancouver Drug Treatment Court.
There are some provincially run drug treatment courts in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario that are outside the federal program.
Ottawa has provided $500,000 a year to the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba for the Winnipeg Drug Treatment Court. Manitoba has contributed about $450,000 annually. The court was established in 2005, and about 70 offenders have successfully completed the program. Offenders are only eligible if their crimes are non-violent and are the result of a drug addiction. They must plead guilty to the offence, undergo frequent drug testing and counselling and make regular court appearances.
About 16 per cent of the program's graduates reoffend. About 66 per cent of people released from a provincial jail in Manitoba go on to commit another offence, as do 32 per cent of those given conditional sentences and 28 per cent of those placed on probation.
Lamb said the only difference in the new funding is it will be provided to the provinces directly instead of non-governmental organizations like the AFM.
"Justice Canada is working with its provincial counterparts, including Manitoba, to ensure that the necessary funding agreements are in place for April 1, 2015," said Lamb.