Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform my colleagues in the Legislative Assembly today about a major initiative that my department has recently carried out in cooperation with the Elsipogtog First Nation.

I am very proud to bring you the good news that the Elsipogtog First Nation Healing to Wellness Court will be up and running next month.

Mister Speaker, the first Provincial Court sessions that led to referrals to the Healing to Wellness Court took place last week. These referrals are now being assessed for suitability for the Healing to Wellness Court and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank some of the key people who played a role in bringing this innovative initiative to fruition.

To fully give credit where it is due, I’d like to thank my predecessor at the Department of Justice, T.J. Burke, who supported the idea of this project in its early days.

For the past two years, the initiative has been largely guided by staff from the Department of  Justice and Attorney General and representatives from Elsipogtog First Nation.

They were assisted by the New Brunswick Legal Aid Services Commission, along with the Ministers of Health and Public Safety and their staff.

I must thank our Premier, David Alward, as well as Lieutenant-Governor Graydon Nicholas, for their support of this project. Chief Judge of the Provincial Court Leslie Jackson, Associate Chief Judge Pierre Arseneault, and Judge Camille Vautour were also very active on this issue.

Tammy Augustine and Anne McKay were key players in this initiative as the co-chairs of the implementation committee.

Don Clairmont of Dalhousie University was helpful in assisting the Elsipogtog First Nation with the development of a justice strategy that highlighted the concept of a Healing to Wellness Court.

Patrick Francis, the deputy minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Peggy Clement, who chairs the justice advisory committee – as well as other members of the Elsipogtog justice advisory committee – were also very instrumental in getting us to where we are today.

I would also acknowledge the efforts of Jean Trahan of the New Brunswick Legal Aid Services Commission.

It’s also important to note the involvement of former Elsipogtog Chief Jesse Simon and current Chief Aaron Sock, who have provided unwavering support to this project.

Mister Speaker, this is yet another good news announcement from our government as we continue to address the needs of New Brunswickers with creative and innovative thinking.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.