REPERE COURSE – Improving Experiences Through Effective Child Participation

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REPERE COURSE –Improving Experiences Through Effective Child

Participation

Online training on how to provide better support to child victims and witnesses of crime in Quebec

For over 25 years, the International Bureau for Children’s Rights (hereafter IBCR or the Bureau) has been working to improve the experiences of children in contact with the justice system as victims, witnesses or alleged offenders. The IBCR’s Guidelines on Justice Matters involving Child Victims and Witnesses of Crime were adopted by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 2005. The guidelines led to the creation of various plain-language documents, a report on the Guidelines on Justice for Child Victims and Witnesses of Crime in Quebec (2011) and Canada (2013), and a study on the experiences of children in contact with the Quebec justice system (2017)*.

Continuing on this path, the Bureau has initiated the creation of the REPERE online course. REPERE is the French acronym for Improving Experiences Through Effective Child Participation. This initiative was made possible with financial support from Quebec’s Ministry of Justice, through the Victims of Crime Fund (FAVAC), the Department of Justice Canada and the Chamandy Foundation. The course is intended for all professionals who accompany children through the judicial process, including individuals working in law enforcement, the legal system, social workers, and the public, private and non-profit sectors.

Developed in collaboration with children and professionals involved in legal proceedings

The training was designed to address the gaps identified by children who have been in contact with the Quebec justice system as witnesses or victims of crime. Children and the various professionals involved in

legal proceedings were consulted in order to determine which aspects of interactions with children require improvement. The course content is based on the findings of these consultations.

Analysis of the judicial trajectory of child victims and witnesses of crime in Quebec

In 2017, the IBCR set out to give child victims and witnesses of crime the opportunity to share their thoughts about their experiences with Quebec’s justice system. A study was conducted to learn about their experiences and opinions, both positive and negative, and the various factors that either helped or hindered their participation. The study identified several factors that impede positive and rights-friendly experiences for children in contact with justice system. These include:

• Feeling neglected and that their experiences were trivialised

• Feeling that the justice system isn’t geared to children and children’s rights

• Feeling that they weren’t adequately informed about procedures, their options and outcomes of their case, which often caused stress and anxiety for the children involved, and not being offered support to reduce the trauma associated with the trial

• Feeling unprepared for the various stages of the process, including testifying in court, and being unfamiliar with certain dynamics, such as cross-examination, which sometimes made children feel persecuted or abandoned

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*The reports and study are available at www.ibcr.org/publications.
THE REPERE COURSE HAS BEEN DEVELOPED IN A 3-STEP PROCESS

• A lack of clarity about the roles and responsibilities of key persons tasked with providing children with information, preparing them for next steps and following up on their cases

• Inequality in the services available/offered to children due to their personal circumstances or geographic location within Quebec

Development of the course framework

In 2020, the IBCR revisited the findings of the 2017 report. During this pivotal stage of the project, the course framework was developed in collaboration with members of PlaidoyerVictime, the Marie-Vincent Foundation, the Outaouais Crime Victims Assistance Centre (CAVAC), Centre-du-Québec and Laval regions, the CIUSSS du Centre-sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal and the Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales du Québec (DPCP). This collaborative effort enabled the researchers to determine where further capacity-building was needed in the areas of children’s rights and participation. Their findings were cross-referenced these with those from the 2017 study.

Production of the course content

The course content was developed to address the gaps identified in the first two project phases, in collaboration with workers and decision-makers from the various professions involved. Children were asked to provide feedback on the content and related audiovisual tools while the course was still being developed. In addition, a pilot training session was held with a group of 50 workers from the targeted professions.

// The importance of child participation

Child participation was a key concern during the development of the REPERE course. The comments and opinions of child witnesses and victims of crime were collected to help identify barriers to participation within the justice system.

Throughout the project, it was a priority to promote children’s autonomy so that they could participate more meaningfully in decisions that concerned them. Consequently, children were involved in key stages of the project (including the 2017 Voices of Youth study, the development of the course content, the report on lessons learned, etc.) in an effort to strengthen their roles as leaders, while supporting the initiative’s implementation and contributing to its governance. Encouraging children to participate actively enabled the IBCR to develop tools that reflect children’s realities and perspectives, and to make a concrete difference in improving their experiences.

CHILD PARTICIPATION ACCORDING TO THE IBCR

The IBCR values children’s right to freely express their opinions and to be actors in their own development, while taking into account their developmental stages, well-being and best interests. Children should be empowered in defending their protection and rights, and not simply be spectators to these processes. Youth are able to understand and form opinions on decisions affecting them, and therefore can and must meaningfully participate in initiatives and decisions aimed at promoting their rights and needs.

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REPERE course: Content and learning objectives //

The purpose of the REPERE course is to generate greater awareness of the importance of child participation in legal proceedings and to help professionals develop and implement child-rights friendly practices throughout Quebec’s justice system. Participants will learn to effectively greet children, explain their roles, and listen effec-

01 - INTRODUCTION

tively and appropriately to what children have to say. They will also learn to encourage children to participate in a manner that is respectful of their wishes, informed, safe, suitable for their developmental level and personality, and meaningful to them.

Generate interest among learners about the importance of child participation in legal proceedings

02 - CHILD PARTICIPATION AND BEST INTERESTS

• Gain a solid understanding of the obligations stemming from the right to participate

• Implement practices that support informed, meaningful, non-discriminatory and voluntary child participation

• Ensure participation adds value to the process

03 - EFFECTIVELY ADAPTING PRACTICES TO CHILDREN’S NEEDS

• Prepare and plan in advance for meetings with children and then follow up adequately

• Provide children with relevant information about their trajectory in the judicial system

• Address children’s primary concerns about going to court

04 - LISTENING EFFECTIVELY AND ENSURING CHILDREN ARE HEARD

• Communicate effectively with children

• Recognise the benefits of effective child-friendly communication

• Understand children’s non-verbal language

• Adapt your own verbal and non-verbal language to the child

05 - ADAPTING TO CHILDREN’S DIVERSE NEEDS

• Analyse the factors used to assess each child’s developmental level and personal autonomy

• Adapt professional practices to suit each child’s developmental level and personal autonomy

• Tailor professional approaches to children’s diverse backgrounds and needs (visible minorities, LGBTQI+, disabilities, etc.)

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COURSE MODULES

Overview of the REPERE course //

» Short and comprehensive: just 4 hours

» 5 modules covering all aspects of child participation in the justice system

» Designed for all professionals who interact with children in the Quebec justice system

» Enables participants to develop the skills required to deliver child-friendly services

» Based on the testimonials of children who have been in contact with the Quebec judicial system

» Created through a collaborative process with children and the various professions involved in child protection within the justice system (judicial, law enforcement, social work)

» Focused on the everyday practices of the targeted professions, including concrete examples

» Interactive and dynamic, with case studies and audiovisual aids

» Certificate awarded upon completion of the training

» More than 3,000 professionals across Quebec will have completed the course by 2024

WHO IS THE TRAINING FOR?

The course was developed for all workers who interact with children within the justice system, including lawyers, prosecutors, judges, police officers, social workers, youth protection workers, representatives from community associations or private foundations, etc.

It’s open to anyone interested in expanding or strengthening their skills related to facilitating participation among child victims and witnesses of crime.

The course was designed with input from Quebec’s Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DCPP), the Crime Victims Assistance Centres (CAVAC), the Marie-Vincent Foundation, the Association québécoise PlaidoyersVictimes, and the CIUSSS du CentreSud-de-l’Île-de Montréal.

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About the IBCR //

Founded in 1994, the International Bureau for Children’s Rights - also referred to as «the Bureau» or «IBCR» - is an international non-governmental organisation whose mission is to protect and promote children’s rights in a manner consistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its optional protocols. The IBCR has been defending children’s rights for more than 25 years in 50 countries across Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Middle

East. Using a sustainable and participatory approach, the Bureau work with local partners to promote and protect the rights of children, including those who are in contact with the law or facing emergency situations. The IBCR also ensure that children are protected from all forms of exploitation, violence and abuse. Active listening, child participation and child protection are important priorities in all its actions.

More than 4 MILLION CHILDREN NOW ENJOY BETTER PROTECTION thanks to our initiatives

More than 4,617 CHILDREN have been consulted during our projects

More than 64,300 PROFESSIONALS have received child-rights training

With financial support from

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