History of The Elizabeth Fry Society of Edmonton

The Elizabeth Fry Society began in 1977 as a volunteer core working out of the old Provincial Courthouse. In 1978, initial funding was provided by the Clifford E. Lee Foundation to develop an Adult Courtwork Program. It was at this time that the Society became a member agency of the United Way.

In 1979, the Elizabeth Fry Society of Edmonton was incorporated and a formal Prison Visitation Program was introduced. The initial volunteers found that the longer they worked with women, the more they uncovered long-term in-depth problems and concerns. They began to realize that until women worked through these problems, reintegration into the community would be difficult. This program has been greatly expanded to include pre-release planning, one-on-one support, and group work. This program is now entitled the Prison Liaison Program.

In 1981 the Kids In Court Program was first introduced to students in the public school system, which offers support to children and teens in the court room.

In 1984, the Community Resources Program began to assist women to come to terms with some of the issues that brought them into contact with the legal system in the first place.  

In 1987, the Daily Living Skills Program was introduced which provided an alternative to prison for women who could benefit from programs and supervision in the community. In 2000, with funding from the National Literacy Secretariat, this program incorporated the literacy project into the daily living skills for the women to discover themselves through writing and to enable them work on their underlying issues. At this time the program's name changed to Changing Paths - A Literacy and Life Skills Program.  

In 1990, a courtwork program began in Youth Court. This program is similar to the Adult courtwork program. In 2001/2002, with the help of Alberta Solicitor General - Youth Initiative, Court Assistants for Female Youth, and the Teen's Stoplifting Program started. These two projects continued with funding from Wild Rose Foundation, Clifford E. Lee Foundation, and The Estate of Robert Tegler and a private funder through United Way of Alberta Capital Region.  

In 1991, an Aboriginal Women's Program began to develop. With the assistance of an Aboriginal steering committee this program has continued to grow and change over the years. This program began by offering a few cultural awareness workshops to staff, clients and other agencies. In 1997 the Aboriginal Women's Program became a full -time position and it now provides ongoing talking and healing circles, craft circles, sweats, workshops as well as Aboriginal retreats. There continues to be a commitment to offer culturally sensitive program to our clients and to involve Aboriginal community members on our Board, staff and in our volunteer program.  

On November 24, 1995, Elizabeth Fry Society of Edmonton moved from McLeod Building to its current location, 10523 - 100 Avenue.

In 2001, women in the Changing Paths program made an application and were successful in receiving bus tickets from the City of Edmonton's Donate-a-Ride program. Bus tickets are distributed to women who access agency programs and services with the goal to break down the barrier of poverty and provide access to public transportation that enable them to attend Elizabeth Fry Society programs.  

In 2001 the Record Suspension Program began, with funding from Kristie Charitable Foundation and the Edmonton Community Foundation. Women with a criminal record are able to apply for a Pardon, after a waiting period. A record suspension removes some of the limitations of having a criminal record, which can hurt their career, job and volunteer opportunities, professional standing and travel. A record suspension will seal their record. With our funding, we are able to assist women with the cost of obtaining a suspension. Women are asked to pay the first $30, and Elizabeth Fry Society will cover any remaining costs. To date, over 200 record suspensions have been granted.

In September 2002, we started the Women's Work Program with funding from Alberta Human Resources and Employment. As poverty and unemployment are the serious issues for our women who come into contact with the legal system, this program has been instrumental in finding long and short-term employment for women who are at risk or in contact with the legal system. To date, the Women's Work project:

  • registered 1000 women
  • placed women on 1500 casual jobs
  • delivered 100 employment workshops

In 2006 Girls Empowered and Strong Program was piloted with the help of the United Way Alberta Capital Region funding.  This is a preventative mobile program that Elizabeth Fry uses to empower girls age 13-17 to make healthy choices so that the girls will have healthy transition from youth to adulthood.  Currently the program is jointly funded by the United Way Alberta Capital Region, Provincial FASD Service Network Program Network Program and Wilde Rose Foundation. Up to date this program provided workshops to 550 girls in schools and 17 girls in the community.  We have delivered 63 workshops in schools and 13 workshops at community agencies.  

In 2007 our adult and youth courtwork program service was expanded to Stony Plain, Morinville, and St. Albert. In 2008, our service expanded to Sherwood Park and Fort Saskatchewan. In 2013, we expanded our service to Wetaskiwin, Camrose, and Ponoka and in 2014 to Red Deer. These expansions were funded by Alberta Law Foundation.  

Our Society continues to offer programs and services to our client group as much as we can. Our Society is the only agency working with women in contact with the legal system in Greater Edmonton.