Drug Treatment Court Program Expands to North Battleford

The Government of Saskatchewan recently announced the expansion of the Drug Treatment Court program in the City of North Battleford.

Drug Treatment Court is an alternative approach to justice for an accused person who has a substance abuse problem that played a role in their offending. Applicable offences include property-related offences, drug offences where the primary motivation is to support an addiction, and administration of justice offences. Offenders facing a custodial sentence between 12 months and two years are also eligible for Drug Treatment Court.

Jonathan Bodvarson, Legal Director of Legal Aid Saskatchewan’s North Battleford Area Office, welcomes this program to the community. “It is very hopeful that we can make intervention for those serial drug offenders and put a stop to that behaviour,” he says. “It is usually the same individuals addicted to drugs who are committing the same property offences.”

There are currently two Drug Treatment Courts in Saskatchewan – one in Regina, established in 2006, and one in Moose Jaw, established in 2009. Between the two centres more than 140 people have graduated from the program.

The North Battleford Drug Treatment Court program is a result of what Bodvarson calls a “grassroots” effort. “This idea was in motion for many years. Around 2018, now retired Judges Dyck and O’Hanlon started holding meetings about this Court. At that time, there was less involvement from the government – it was more bottom-up,” he explains. “After many years of meeting sporadically, things started to get rolling a couple of years ago with more involvement of judges from Regina providing guidance and Therapeutic Court coordinators organizing the meetings more formally.”

Bodvarson also notes that other community resources, such as residential addiction treatment programs for adults and youth, makes North Battleford a good choice for the expansion of this program.

Using a delayed sentencing model, participants work through the program for approximately one year, and upon successful graduation will receive a reduced sentence. Each participant works with the judge, prosecutor, Legal Aid or other defense lawyer, a case manager and addiction counsellor to support their progress through the program, which includes regular court appearances, one-on-one and group counselling, random drug testing, and life skills or employment training.

“There are two benefits to completing the program: legal and non-legal,” says Bodvarson. “The legal benefit is that usually those allowed into the program are looking at substantial jail if not for the programming. Therefore, they avoid that result. The non-legal benefit are the interventions, such as addictions counselling and providing structure and stability. Those who get through the programming can find themselves with an entire new start at life.”

The Government of Saskatchewan and Government of Canada are cost-sharing the $1.7 million expenditure of the 2024-2025 drug treatment court program. Of this, the North Battleford site will receive $240,000 for its initial year.

Bodvarson is looking forward to the success of the North Battleford Drug Treatment Court when it opens this fall. “I support all types of Therapeutic Courts. This is the model that courts should be pursuing for most criminal behaviour.”

Read more about Drug Treatment Court here: Courts of Saskatchewan – Drug Treatment Court

Motivation + Leadership = Success

What motivates us individually and as a team to achieve inclusive, responsive and equitable justice in Saskatchewan? This was the question posed by Jayne Mallin, Legal Aid Saskatchewan’s CEO, at a recent Learn to Lead, Lead to Learn forum with LAS staff.

The discussion referenced Dan Pink’s theory that people intrinsically want to do things that matter. Pink, author of “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” (2009), says the three elements of motivation are autonomy, mastery and purpose. Jayne engaged attendees with the following questions:

Legal Aid Saskatchewan’s Learn to Lead, Lead to Learn forum is an engaging discussion period where different leadership topics are explored and debated amongst employees. As champions for access to justice, it is essential for our team to listen to each other's insights and express ideas in a safe and supportive forum. The Learn to Lead, Lead to Learn discussions benefit our organizational culture and staff engagement. We are a purpose-driven team producing exceptional outcomes!

Welcoming & Safe Spaces at Legal Aid Saskatchewan

"With my heritage as a Plains Cree, I learned of the art of beading. I enjoy the diversity of art and how traditional beading can cross over into other mediums.

Having been raised by my Caucasian grandmother, I was encouraged to express myself with my imagination in my art, including my beading.

Like many artists, I have struggles that both influence and sometimes inhibit my work.

Life for many of us isn't easy but I'm grateful for my mother, her love and continued support.

I like to share my work and like to learn from other artists and their mediums.

Life is art and art is life."

- Jordan Mackenzie Bruce Schell

We recently commissioned local artist Jordan Schell to create a custom visual representation of Legal Aid Saskatchewan’s commitment to safe spaces for our Indigenous and LGBTQIA2S+ communities. We appreciate the thoughtful intent Jordan applied in this piece, including the vibrant, textured paint and intricate beadwork.

Each of our Area Offices will receive a copy of Jordan’s art to enhance the welcoming and safe spaces we provide for our clients.

Thank you, Jordan!

CUPE 1949 and Saskatchewan Legal Aid Commission agreement strengthens access to justice in Saskatchewan

"The Saskatchewan Legal Aid Commission would like to thank our bargaining teams for prioritizing our shared interest in ensuring that our clients continue to have access to inclusive, responsive, and equitable legal services in Saskatchewan. This agreement recognizes the value of the work done every day by our purpose-driven staff."

- Jayne Mallin, CEO, Saskatchewan Legal Aid Commission

CUPE 1949 and Saskatchewan Legal Aid Commission agreement strengthens access to justice in Saskatchewan: read more here!

Contact:

Jayne Mallin, CEO
c/o Erin Legg, Communications Manager
306-933-6518
elegg@legalaid.sk.ca

Law Students Gather at Head Office for an Introduction to Legal Aid Saskatchewan

It was an honour to recently host a group of students from the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Law for our inaugural Legal Aid Saskatchewan Meet & Greet!

Held at our Head Office in downtown Saskatoon, this reception was an opportunity for the students to learn more about who we are, what we do and the people we serve. “The goal of the event was to introduce Legal Aid Saskatchewan to the students, to talk about our history, and to have students hear directly from our lawyers and CEO,” says Olga Sadikova, Director of People & Culture.

After being greeted by Jayne Mallin, LAS CEO, and hearing a brief overview of the past 50 years of service, the students were given a sneak peek into a day in the life of a legal aid lawyer. Samantha Neill, Legal Director with our Saskatoon Rural Area Office, talked about her articling experience, why she joined LAS, and a typical day as an organizational leader. Staff Lawyer Taylor-Anne Yee from our Saskatoon City Area Office also shared her articling experience and history working with LAS, and what her day looks like as a legal aid lawyer.

The students were inquisitive and asked thoughtful questions about the types of law practiced at LAS, client eligibility, lawyer caseload, and working in a rural office versus a city office. Of course, they were also curious about how to apply for our articling positions and other full-time job opportunities with LAS!

“We had two of our summer students, Isaac Rogers and Lisa Wanlin, come in and talk about their past experiences as summer students, and now becoming articling students this spring,” explains Joanne Khan, Practice Management Counsel. “I believe the information and discussion provided a great exposure about our organization and the many positive features we have to offer our employees.”

With the recruitment of articling students for the 2025-2026 fiscal year underway, the meet and greet reception was effective for increasing the visibility of Legal Aid Saskatchewan as a publicly-funded organization championing access to justice through professional legal services. “It’s very important to let students know about working in an organization that provides meaningful service to clients who are not able to afford private lawyers,” says Khan.

My Articling Term with Legal Aid Saskatchewan’s Northern Area Office

Legal Aid Saskatchewan's articling students' program provides a broad hands-on experience for students-at-law interested in criminal and family law, and promotes interaction between lawyers, clients and our admin team. Morgan Blyth is one of two Legal Aid Saskatchewan articling students for the 2023-2024 fiscal year. She has been working in the Northern Area Office since July 2023. Here she recounts her articling journey with LAS as she prepares to transition into the role of Staff Lawyer!

Legal Aid Saskatchewan (LAS): What was it like to relocate and dive head-first into the front-line advocacy Legal Aid lawyers provide?

Morgan Blyth (MB): For me personally, I have always been a city girl, so relocating to La Ronge was a new challenge. I am still getting used to businesses closing so early! I am grateful I was able to get some hands-on experience from the beginning as it helped to settle my nerves and made the whole process seem less intimidating.

I believe I learn best by being thrown right into the situation and having a sink-or-swim moment. I trust the people I work with to know that they wouldn’t give me anything they didn’t think I could handle, and I appreciate them always being there to answer my hundreds (if not thousands) of questions.

LAS: What were your expectations going into your articling year, and how different/similar is your actual experience?

MB: Prior to going into my articling year, I didn’t think I would be given the opportunity to do as much as I have. I thought I would mostly be observing, but that is not the case. I am able to attend court every week and participate in the court process alongside experienced counsel.

LAS: What are some of the biggest highlights of your experience with LAS?

MB: I think my biggest highlight would be meeting and making connections with new people. The Northern office was so welcoming and made me feel comfortable instantly. From our potluck lunches to our puzzle addiction, I am always looking forward to going into the office.

I also enjoyed meeting private bar counsel and observing their different styles in court. Being able to watch someone advocate fiercely for their client is inspiring and reminds me of why I wanted to become a lawyer in the first place.

Another highlight of my year was being able to successfully run my first bail hearing. I think I was more nervous than our client. Being able to rely on my team for advice and guidance was instrumental to my success in this hearing.

LAS: Has anything surprised you?

MB: I think what surprised me the most is the resilience of our clients. No matter what they have been through they keep going and continue to work to better themselves.

LAS: What are some of the new skills/knowledge you gained from your articling experience?

MB: One thing I have gained is confidence while speaking in court. I know I still have a long way to go but I think I have built a strong base that I can continue to grow throughout my career.

I have also learned how to successfully keep a day planner for longer than a few months. Without this, and our amazing administrative staff, I would be lost.

LAS: If you could share some insight with students pursuing a career in law, what would you tell them?

MB: I would tell them to just breathe. Going through law school and finding articles can be stressful, but everything will work itself out. The legal field can be overwhelming at times but remember why you chose this career in the first place and use that to propel you forward.

LAS: What do you look forward to in your career as a champion for access to justice?

MB: I am still looking forward to running my first trial! I have a few scheduled in these upcoming months and I am hopeful that they will run.

I am also hopeful that I will be able to go on more circuits and help people from those communities.

LAS: Anything else you want to share!

MB: I am so happy to share that I will be continuing my legal career with the Legal Aid Saskatchewan Northern area office as a staff lawyer after I am done articling!

Polytech Career Fair a Positive Recruitment Opportunity

Sask Polytech’s Prince Albert campus recently hosted a career fair, and Legal Aid Saskatchewan was proud to be an on-site employer promoting future opportunities for students. Representing LAS at this event were Charlene Jones (Administrative Staff Manager in the Prince Albert Area Office), Omonike Charles-Binitie (People & Culture Specialist), and Adedayo Adeyeye (People & Culture Intern).

Charlene says career fairs like this are beneficial for building relationships with not only the educational institutions in the community but also with potential employees (students). Omonike agrees. “Career fairs provide us with opportunities to interact directly with prospective applicants.”

Charlene, Omonike and Adedayo enjoyed speaking one-on-one with the students. “It was great to meet with the students who are interested in the admin assistant field,” says Charlene. “Their interest in our organization was refreshing, and they had lots of great questions. They learned about our commitment to providing the best possible services to our clients, as well as our commitment to access to justice.”

“Talking to the students was the perfect way of letting them know we have more than lawyer positions at Legal Aid,” adds Omonike.

Click here to see our current career opportunities!

Reflections on My Articling Year with Legal Aid Saskatchewan

Legal Aid Saskatchewan’s articling students are an important component of the work provided by our team. In addition to working closely with our administrative staff, LAS articling students have numerous opportunities to observe staff in various court matters. For our criminal law clients, our articling students review disclosure/files, attend court, meet with clients, have their own files, assist with bail hearings, and run trials and sentencings. For family law clients, students review client files and documents, meet with clients, have their own files, attend court and judicial case conferences, and observe and assist in preparing family and family service trials.

Wendy Corden is an articling student who has been with our Yorkton Area Office since June 2023. Here she shares what her experience has been like working with legal aid clients and growing her skills as a champion for access to justice. We look forward to Wendy’s upcoming transition from articling student to Legal Aid Saskatchewan Staff Lawyer!

Legal Aid Saskatchewan (LAS): What was it like to relocate and dive head-first into the front-line advocacy Legal Aid lawyers provide?

Wendy Corden (WC): I was raised in a rural community, so relocating to Yorkton felt easy. I never cared for the hustle and bustle of the big city while in law school (if you count Saskatoon as big). I was excited to relocate to another rural community and help rural clients facing unique challenges, like fewer resources and support.

Thanks to the guidance from other lawyers and staff in my office, diving into front-line advocacy felt a lot less overwhelming than expected. I was given opportunities to speak in court right away, and I received extra advocacy training by observing, shadowing, and asking questions.

LAS: What were your expectations going into your articling year, and how different/similar is your actual experience?

WC: I was a bit nervous heading into articling as I heard that the articling experience often involved a lot of fetching coffee and carrying briefcases. My articling year with LAS has been much more hands-on and rewarding. I was quickly given responsibility over my own files, exposed to a wide range of legal issues, and received great mentorship from the Yorkton office’s lawyers and staff. Overall, articling with Legal Aid Saskatchewan has exceeded my expectations!

LAS: What are some of the biggest highlights of your experience with LAS?

WC: One of the biggest highlights of my articling has been winning my first criminal trial. Knowing I made a difference in someone else’s life was a very rewarding feeling.

Another highlight from this year was when I presented to a rural grade 12 law class about Legal Aid Saskatchewan, explaining what we do and our professional responsibilities as lawyers and advocates. The students were engaged and asked insightful questions, which showed a genuine interest in understanding the legal system and access to justice.

Another highlight has been the work-life balance I’ve experienced while working with LAS. During my articles, I was able to get hand surgery, get married, and go on a 25-kilometre hiking trip (don’t worry – this was not all on the same day). I have been grateful to work with an organization that prioritizes work-life balance while still promoting quality legal service.

LAS: Has anything surprised you?

WC: Something that surprised me is how much paperwork is involved in family law. King’s Bench really does have a form for everything.

I was also surprised to see how happy my clients were to have an articling student represent them. When I first started, I would walk into client interviews thinking, “I hope they’re okay getting stuck with the student!” But to my surprise, most clients have been thrilled that I’m handling their cases. I noticed that clients appreciate the dedication and fresh perspective that LAS articling students bring.

LAS: What are some of the new skills/knowledge you gained from your articling experience?

WC: Since I have been appearing in Court nearly every day, I’ve had the opportunity to really develop my court skills. I still have lots to learn, but I’m much more prepared to go into litigation thanks to my articling experience with LAS.

Another skill I’ve had the opportunity to develop is being trauma-informed when interacting with clients. Not everyone responds to trauma the same way or recognizes when something traumatic has happened. I hope to develop these skills further and continue creating a safe space for my clients to speak openly.

LAS: If you could share some insight with students pursuing a career in law, what would you tell them?

WC: I would tell students pursuing a career in law to be kind to themselves – and that it’s okay to make mistakes. It’s not possible to navigate the legal world without making mistakes. There are a lot of students and lawyers who seek to be perfect (me included). But people learn by messing up. Messing up is how we grow and eventually become good lawyers who, one day, mess up a little less.

LAS: What do you look forward to in your career as a champion for access to justice?

WC: I look forward to making a positive impact in people’s lives. There are a lot of barriers in place that prevent people with a lower income from getting the legal help they need. I’m excited to continue helping my clients, despite these barriers, so they can receive the support and advocacy they deserve.

LAS: Is there anything else you want to share?

WC: I’m excited to share that I will be staying with Legal Aid Saskatchewan as a staff lawyer after the completion of my articles!