Learning Events

About our Learning Events

In keeping with our goal to promote understanding and awareness of current issues in Canadian criminal justice, the Association has hosted a number of learning events in recent years. The broad scope of topics addressed is indicative of the wide-ranging interests of NSCJA members. It also reflects our commitment to inform the public about important justice issues that impact all Nova Scotians.

April 2019

2019 Resilience Conference


Criminal justice practitioners play an important role in our society, but they have tough jobs that induce stress, trauma, and compassion fatigue.


This Resilience Conference provided a space to discuss these issues, and identify different components of resilience as a way to highlight how to address stress within criminological fields of work. Professionals from the Criminal Justice System, the Nova Scotia Health Authority, and Dalhousie University  lead discussions regarding; Maintaining resilience, substance use and resilience, and mindfulness at work.


The conference was made possible by support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, the Canadian Criminal Justice Association , and Nova Scotia Correctional Services.


Click hyperlink to open: Conference Program

Click hyperlink to open: 2019 Resilience Conference Suggested Reading List


Speakers’ Presentations

– Click hyperlink to open: Resilience – Wilson

– Click hyperlink to open: Substance Use – Steeves and Kennedy



June 2018

Harm and Harm Reduction Conference


Harm is an essential ingredient of crime and punishment. Criminal acts can be harmful. Criminalizing people and behaviours can also create harm. Furthermore, the manner by which society responds to crimes can generate severe harms that disproportionately affect marginalized



On June 21 & 22, 2018, a joint conference of the Nova Scotia Criminal Justice Association (NSCJA), the Department of Criminology at Saint Mary’s University (SMU), and the National Committee of the Critical Perspectives Conference was held. The event brought together almost 200 criminal justice practitioners, government and non-government agencies, students, and critical scholars to explore how harm and harm reduction is expressed in the criminal justice system.


During the 2-day conference, over 25 sessions were held in French and English, covering such topics as poverty, substance use, policing, sex work, intimate partner violence, and innovative responses to crime. Day One of the conference began with welcoming remarks and an Indigenous territory acknowledgement, followed by a keynote address by Dr. Simon Pemberton from the University of Birmingham who presented his work pertaining to the social harm caused by states and corporations. Day Two of the conference started with a panel presentation from five deputy and associate deputy ministers of various branches of government in Nova Scotia, including: Justice; Health & Wellness; Communities, Culture, and Heritage; Community Services; and Education and Early Childhood Development.


The conference was made possible by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, as well as contributions from SMU, NSCJA, and NS Correctional Services.

Click hyperlink to open: Harm and Harm Reduction Conference Program 2018



June 2017

Criminal Justice in Nova Scotia: Beyond ‘One Size Fits All’


In recent years there has been an increase in the number and type of specialized processes in the criminal justice system.


The rationale given for the enactment of special provisions for sentencing Aboriginal offenders is that the unique circumstances and social histories of these individuals have given rise to disproportionate rates of imprisonment.


Recently in Nova Scotia cultural assessments have been requested by the judiciary to assist in sentencing African Nova Scotian offenders.


Specialized or problem-solving courts (e.g. domestic violence and mental health courts) have been established in response to the perceived limitations of traditional courts in addressing the complexities of violence in intimate relationships and in responding to accused persons suffering from mental illness or drug addiction.


The purpose of this learning event is to provide a forum for participants to gain a greater understanding of:

  • The rationale for creating specialized justice processes as an alternative to the traditional justice system;
  • The ways in which these alternatives have been implemented in Nova Scotia; and
  • The strengths and weaknesses of the approaches, the challenges and opportunities for improving their effectiveness.


Opening remarks were provided by Dr. Esther Enns, Vice-President, Academic and Research (Acting), Saint Mary’s University and
Fred Honsberger, President, NS Criminal Justice Association. An opening prayer was offered by Mi’kmaq Elder Jane Abrham.


Keynote address: Provincial Court Innovation in the Criminal Justice System

  • The Honourable Pamela S. Williams, Chief Judge of the Provincial and Family Courts


Panel presentation Domestic Violence Courts

  • Dr. Verona Singer, Halifax Regional Police Victim Services
  • Dr. Diane Crocker, Saint Mary’s University
  • Tod Augusta-Scott, Bridges Institute


Panel presentation Culturally Appropriate Responses for Aboriginal Persons

  • The Honourable Laurel J. Halfpenny-MacQuarrie, Judge of the Provincial Court
  • Cheryl Fritz, Court Services, Mi’kmaw Legal Support Network
  • Mona O’Brien, court worker, Mi’kmaw Legal Support Network


Panel presentation Cultural Assessments for African Nova Scotian Offenders

  • Lana MacLean, social justice advocate
  • Brendan Rolle, Nova Scotia Legal Aid
  • Maria Dugas, Schulich School of Law


Presentation Mental Health Courts

  • Kelly Rowlett, NS Legal Aid, Defence Counsel, Mental Health Court, Dartmouth


Click hyperlink to open: NSCJA June 2017 Conference Summary



March 2017

Correctional Institutions: Inside-Outside


In 2014/15 there were 5079 admissions to provincial correctional institutions in Nova Scotia.   Admissions include individuals on remand awaiting trial or sentence, immigration detainees, or those serving sentences of two years a day or less, including those who are serving intermittent sentences (generally on weekends).  Most Nova Scotians have never been inside a correctional institution and are unfamiliar with what goes on within that environment.

This session provided an overview of the programs offered within provincial correctional facilities and the challenges faced by individuals when their term of incarceration is over and they re-enter the community.


Lorri Bower                    Manager, Offender Programs and Principal of Educational Programs, Correctional Services, Nova Scotia Department of Justice

John Peach                     Executive Director, The John Howard Society of Nova Scotia

Jeffrey Brooks              First voice

Richard Verge              A/Deputy Superintendent, Adjudications, Correctional Services, Nova Scotia Department of Justice



May 2016

Pathways to Criminalization for Women


Over the last decade the number of women in federal prison has increased by more than 65%. Indigenous women make up more than 30% of the women’s prison population but represent less than 5% of the female population in Canada.

This learning event explored the following issues:

  • Why are poverty, mental health, addictions, violence and abuse pathways to criminalization?
  • How can the findings from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission be a catalyst to address the concerns of criminalized Indigenous women?
  • What are the struggles for criminalized African Nova Scotian women and Queer and Trans women?


El Jones                                                  Spoken word artist, activist, professor, Saint Mary’s University, former Poet Laureate of Halifax Regional Municipality.

Pamela Glode-Desrochers          Executive Director, Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre

Ardath Whynacht                            Artist/scholar. Professor of Sociology, Mount Allison University


May 2015

Policing in Halifax in the 21st Century


Chief Jean Michel Blais of the Halifax Regional Police and other senior officers presented an overview of the current and emerging challenges facing law enforcement as they strive to protect citizens from crime and establish safe and secure communities.


May 2014

The Hypersexualization of Youth Culture and its implications for criminal justice and society


The learning event explored the impact of hypersexual youth culture on girls and boys, young men and women and its implications and impact on society. Presenters shared their research, knowledge and experience of the issue and its impacts.


May 2013

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD): Sharing First Voice and Expert Perspectives


Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder describes a wide array of effects caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol and is considered to be the most common form of preventable birth disorder in the Western world. Effects of prenatal alcohol exposure vary from person to person but can have effects on cognition, behaviour, development, physical appearance, and health, as well as secondary effects, which can be defined as results from the interaction of the individual’s primary disabilities with their life experience. Despite this broad and extensive impact FASD is still largely unrecognized and professionals and the community at large struggle with how to effectively work with and support people afflicted with FASD.

The workshop provided an opportunity to hear an academic expert in the field of neuropsychology (Dr. Robert McInerney, IWK Health Centre)address the topic of FASD, followed by a first voice perspective and concluded with practical strategies to help manage symptoms of FASD.

May 2012

Safe Streets and Communities Act: A Nova Scotia Perspective


On March 13, 2012 federal legislation Bill C-10 (Safe Streets and Communities Act) received Royal Assent. Broad in scope, this legislation imposed new mandatory minimum sentences for certain sex offences and drug crimes and restricted the availability of conditional sentences. It amended nine Acts including the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Criminal Records Act and the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

The objective of the workshop was to promote understanding of the new legislation and its potential impact on Nova Scotians. The session provided an overview of the Act and an opportunity to hear the views of experts in the field regarding the likely impact of the legislation on offenders, victims, marginalized groups, the community and the criminal justice system itself.

November 2011

Exploring Cultural Competence an Nova Scotia’ s Criminal Justice System: Approaches and Dialogue for Change


The workshop was organized in response to recommendations flowing from a colloquium sponsored by the NSCJA in April 2010 African Nova Scotians and the Criminal Justice System: Conversations toward solutions. Session objectives were as follows:

  • To demonstrate creation of a safe, inclusive and participatory environment for dialogue and change.
  • To define cultural competence as an individual and institutional responsibility.
  • To illustrate that cultural competence and cultural safety include a learned set of skills, knowledge and values that require a commitment to change.
  • To review Triple A: Awareness, Analysis and Action as an approach for supporting cultural competence.
  • To state systemic strategies to build cultural competence.
  • To state a common understanding of, and shared commitment to, identifying next steps for implementing cultural competence.

Key-note addresses were delivered by Dr. Wanda Thomas Bernard and Sharon Davis-Murdoch.

April 2010

African Nova Scotians and the Criminal Justice System: Conversations toward Solutions.


The workshop provided a forum for considering the issues and barriers encountered by African Nova Scotians, both as employees and offenders, in the criminal justice system.

October 2009

Congress 2009, co-sponsored by the Canadian Criminal Justice Association and the Nova Scotia Criminal Justice Association:


This event was held at the Waterfront Marriott Hotel in Halifax from October 29 to 31, 2009. The Congress theme was: “ Problem Solving Justice: What Problems? Whose Justice? Special Populations, Special Courts, Special Services. Over 450 participants and presenters attended.


The Congress Program plenary sessions and workshops focused on special courts related to youth, drugs and alcohol, domestic violence , Aboriginal community and mental health. The sessions also addressed issues pertaining to victims, the Black community , community capacity-building, gangs, cyber crime, system responses to special needs clients, women clients, access to justice, partnerships, risk prediction and related research. A highlight of the program was the World Cafe which successfully and actively engaged over 400 participants in small group discussions on subjects related to the Congress theme. All Congress presenters were recognized experts in their respective fields within Nova Scotia and nationally.

March 2009

Seeking Social Justice: Aboriginal Encounters with the Justice System


This workshop addressed the following issues:

In an increasingly diverse country, is it important for the justice system to be aware of the social and historical realities of the people who come in conflict with the law?

The Supreme Court of Canada’s 1999 decision in R v. Gladue clarified the duty of sentencing judges to consider background and systemic factors in sentencing Aboriginal offenders, and in so doing has acknowledged the legacy of discrimination faced by Aboriginal people in Canada.

Now police, judges, prosecutors, defence attorneys and workers in community based agencies alike are trying to determine both the practical and philosophical implications of Gladue.

April 2008

Crime Prevention Continuum: Where do you fit in?


Professor Ross Hastings, University of Ottawa/Institute for the Prevention of Crime, in his keynote address, spoke to the following issues:

We are confronted with a dilemma: there is considerable support for the idea of crime prevention, yet we are not making progress as rapidly as we would hope. Crime prevention as a strategy – what is included in the prevention continuum?

Community mobilization – what are the benefits and limitations of this approach?

Next steps – what are the sources of the resistance to change?

What do we need to help us to better deliver on the promise of prevention?

Workshop participants discussed the key components for building safer communities and the challenges of putting a provincial crime prevention strategy into practice.


March 2007

Lessons from Nunn: A Collaborative Course


This workshop provided an overview of the Nunn Commission recommendations and the response by agencies administering the justice, education, health and social welfare systems. Recognizing that implementation of the Nunn Commission recommendations would require collaboration among governmental agencies and with the community, workshop participants examined the factors that create conditions for successful collaborations.

March 2006

The criminalization of People with Mental Health Problems in Nova Scotia: Opportunities for Innovation


Professor Archie Kaiser of Dalhousie University discussed the ways in which individuals with mental health issues are caught in the net of the justice system and challenged participants to consider alternatives for this vulnerable population.

November 2005

 Criminal Justice in the 21st Century: Public Policy Challenges.


The keynote address of the inaugural workshop of the NSCJA was delivered by Danny Graham and participants discussed the following issues:

Balancing Victim and Offender Rights: Restorative Justice:


  • has the proliferation of RJ programs had a discernible effect on the justice system?
  • System responses to victims: are their voices being heard?
  • Responding to family violence
  • Responding to a Changing Justice Environment: Youth criminal justice legislation – is it working?
  • Privatization of justice – is this a problem or solution?
  • Changing offender population – are we up to the task?

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