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Canada to fund justice improvement projects in Guyana

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams greeting Canadian High Commissioner Dr. Nicole Giles (GINA photo)

Guyana is to benefit from two CAN$20 million initiatives being implemented by the Canadian government in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and will also receive a CAN$750,000 grant to effect improvements to the Judiciary, says Canadian High Commissioner Dr. Nicole Giles.

This and other initiatives were discussed by the Canadian envoy and Guyana’s Attorney General (AG) and Legal Affairs Minister, Basil Williams, when she paid a courtesy call to his office on Friday Morning.

“Her Excellency has indicated to me that Canada has…approved a CAN$750, 000 development grant for us to look at certain aspects of improving the Justice System of Guyana,” Williams told members of the press following the meeting.

Getting specific, he explained that the funds will assist improvements in “legislative drafting, the question of improving the administration of the courts, training of judges and lawyers, inter alia.”

Giles clarified that Guyana will also be benefitting from “two CAN$20 million Regional Justice Programmes for the Caribbean through Canada’s Regional Development Programme for the Caribbean.” In fact, Giles said, Guyana is a “key beneficiary of these two initiatives.”

These initiatives were first announced by Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, during his address at the Seventh Summit of the Americas in Panama City back in April. One initiative, titled “Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening in the Caribbean”, is aimed at strengthening judicial systems in CARICOM in an effort to make them more responsive to the needs it their citizens.

 That initiative is to be implemented by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), and is expected to cost approximately CAN$19.9 million.

The other initiative is titled “Improved Access to Justice in the Caribbean,” and is aimed at enhancing access to justice in the Caribbean. This initiative, which will cost approximately $19.8 million, will be implemented by the University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill. Both initiatives are expected to run until 2019.  

Giles explained that the CAN$750, 000 grant will fund a separate initiative; a project to be implemented by the Justice Education Society of British Colombia. The body is a Non-Government Organisation (NGO) which works with judiciaries to “strengthen systems along the continuum from what you do when you arrive at the crime scene to how investigations are done by police, to how the cases are prosecuted by the prosecutors to how the judges hear the case and render the verdicts,” Giles explained.

Continuing, she said that the successful implementation of this project will require the NGO to work very closely with the Guyana Police Force (GPF), the Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Carl Singh, and Williams as Legal Affairs Minister.

Asked why Canada opted to award Guyana the grant the High Commissioner said “I think everyone accepts that that the impunity rates are not acceptable at this point in time.”

She also pointed out that “there is also a very strong will on the (part) of the police and the prosecutors, the judiciary and the courts to try to address” the existing issues.

Williams added that part of the grant will be used to take steps necessary “to assist with undue delays and reduce the backlog of cases.”

Williams and Giles also discussed plans by the Granger administration to amend the Anti-Money Laundering Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Act of 2009 in an effort to address several areas as noted in a set of recommendation made to the former administration several years ago.