Training Then and Now

Among the most significant changes at the Justice Institute of British Columbia in its 40 years is how the education and training it provides has evolved and advanced with the times. When JIBC opened its doors in 1978, new courses taught at the Police Academy included the safe and effective use of a newly-adopted baton and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Forty years later, de-escalation and crisis intervention are among essential lessons for new recruits. When the Paramedic Academy was established in 1980, paramedics were not trained or authorized to administer any medications at all, unlike today. Four decades ago, first aid training was not required for firefighters but now such skills are mandatory and the norm, along with learning how to use the Jaws of Life.

Here is more on how each area of training at JIBC has changed over the years: 

Show All

Conflict Resolution

JIBC’s first conflict resolution course offering in 1983 stemmed from a belief that instances of domestic conflict would escalate to family violence, particularly in remote communities, because of an inability to effectively address low-level conflict within the traditional court system.

The overwhelming success of that first workshop, attended by professionals from a wide range of fields from lawyers and counsellors to social workers, led to the creation of courses and eventually, certificate programs.

JIBC conflict resolution courses have always incorporated scenario-based training, video-recording and coaching in a very personalized approach to teaching practical tools and techniques, in addition to conflict theory.  

Today, with a shift towards greater awareness and recognition of the field of conflict resolution, training also includes education on brain science and cognitive processes. Students now also learn, for instance, the neuroscience behind the physical changes in the brain and body when triggered by conflict and stress.  

Corrections and Community Justice

The Corrections and Community Justice Division was one of the founding partners of JIBC at a time when correctional institutions were being redesigned to emphasize rehabilitation over punishment. That change made skills in areas such as communications, facilitation, problem-solving and conflict resolution even more important.

Today, training of corrections staff takes place in classrooms and online, and includes simulation training where recruits are taught to handle challenging situations, sometimes involving actors hired to play the role of violent or otherwise difficult inmates.

Similarly, the division trains probation officers through a blend of online, in the classroom and on the job. Topics for adult probation officers include Aboriginal justice, supervision domestic offenders, personal safety, restorative justice and discrimination prevention. In simulations, they learn how to give evidence in court and practice different interviewing techniques. For youth probation officers, topics include substance abuse, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, mental health issues, suicide awareness and Aboriginal youth in the justice system. Training is continually evolving through evidence-based approaches.

Counselling and Community Safety

The Centre for Counselling and Community Safety has long held a vision of social justice, honoring indigeneity, diversity and equality. Although the name of the Centre has changed over the past 40 years this area of JIBC has consistently provided innovative, skills-based training for frontline social workers, victim service workers, counsellors, staff at not-for-profit organizations and educators.

We have grown from offering a few courses with a focus on social justice and victim services to diverse counselling courses as well as Critical Incident Stress Management courses and programs designed to help frontline staff and management cope with immediate consequences of trauma. When there were major changes to the Criminal Code around family violence and sexual assault, the Centre responded by developing new programs to address them, as well.

As the fields of psychology and social work have evolved over time, the programs and courses offered through the Centre have evolved with it. We have remained a leader in education in the areas of family violence, child sexual abuse intervention, mental health, complex trauma and post-traumatic stress. We have developed skills-based courses that provide professionals with tools and techniques to deal with complex problems of today’s world.

The Centre has expanded its customized training, preparing people provincially and nationally, to respond to new and emerging issues by offering practical and advanced training through both online and face-to-face programing. 

Emergency Management

The Emergency Management Division (EMD), was established at JIBC in 1989. While it previously provided classes and programs in four main areas – emergency management, search and rescue, emergency radio communications and emergency social services ­– its focus has broadened as the emergency management field has developed as a profession.

Today, EMD offers a complete range of applied and degree-path programs to prepare students for professional, specialist and leadership positions in the fields of emergency management, public safety, exercise design, security and business continuity. Students can choose from degree, diploma or certificate programs, available in-class or online.

EMD also offers customized, contract training to private organizations, communities and government agencies across Canada and internationally. Both academic and contract training programs emphasize applied, hands-on, interactive learning.

In recent years, the emergency management training provided at JIBC has transitioned away from a model of simply responding to emergencies towards a more holistic perspective that takes into account the overall community involved and its resiliency. It is a recognition of the interconnectedness of systems and how the scope of education, training and opportunities have broadened to include topics such as planning, mitigation, resilience, recovery and psychosocial issues.


JIBC’s Fire & Safety Division started in 1978, only five years after the province started moving towards more formal and standardized training of the 7,000 professional and volunteer firefighters in BC at the time.

Originally based out of the Jericho Hill campus, by the end of the 1980s it was offering four-day intensive, hands-on simulation training with props and equipment such as a Mack pumper and a full-sized light airplane. A major step forward came in 1995 when the provincial government transferred to JIBC the Fire and Safety Training Centre, a live-fire training facility in Maple Ridge. JIBC added a four-storey burn building, designed to be set on fire repeatedly. Its training props now include a ship’s steel substructure and hold, an 11-car train derailment of tank cars, a mock warehouse and dozens of wrecked vehicles to be set on fire or cut up with the Jaws of Life.

Today’s firefighter training is a far cry from what firefighters received 40 years ago simply because they are now expected to respond to increasingly complex calls, to which JIBC has adapted its courses and programs in response. These include the creation of specialized teams in fire departments to address needs such as hazardous materials, technical rescue, structural collapse and trench rescue. There have been changes in building codes, construction and materials to take into account. New tools such as the Jaws of Life have been introduced and skills such as first aid training have become mandatory. There have been improvements in technology out in the field and a standardization of firefighter equipment, training, and operational requirements. Perhaps most importantly, there is greater emphasis on health and safety, from the use of modern turnout gear compared to earlier loose-fitting jackets and non-protective boots that were the norm, and more awareness and training to prepare for incidences of post-traumatic stress.

Paramedic Academy

With the creation in 1974 of the BC Ambulance Service, Canada’s first provincially-operated ambulance service, came a need for a professional training centre for BC’s paramedics. This was the impetus for JIBC’s Paramedic Academy established in 1980.

The Academy had five areas of focus – Infant Transport, Advanced Life Support, Community Basic Life Support, Emergency Medical Assistant Levels I and II and Continuing Education. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation was introduced to the provincial medical community through both public and advanced Cardiac Life Support courses in the Community Basic Life Support Program.

A Trauma Program was also introduced to train ambulance personnel in the skills needed to stabilize a trauma victim at the scene of an accident on the way to hospital. However, unlike today, in those early days, paramedics were not trained or authorized to administer any medication at all.

Since then, paramedic training and education at JIBC has advanced significantly, both in duration and complexity, having evolved from skills-based workshops to academic programs. The training has shifted from post-employment to pre-employment with the number of graduates increasing annually. JIBC paramedic programs, which have been developed to meet the needs of new levels of practitioners, have received national accreditation. There has been an increased emphasis on paramedic health, wellness and safety, including resiliency in the profession.

Competency requirements are met by students in various environments including in classrooms, and during field training in hospital and on ambulances. Scenario training is used to prepare students for being out in the field and can include simulations involving students from other justice and public safety disciplines taught at JIBC as well as other health care professionals.

Today, technology plays a greater role in paramedic education through digitized classroom materials, the use of electronic patient care records, online learning opportunities, and advanced patient simulators and equipment that provide increasingly realistic learning environments for students. As the tools used in paramedic practice have evolved, the JIBC Paramedic Academy continues to add diagnostic tools and treatment modalities into the training programs to ensure our graduates are prepared to be leaders in the profession.

Police Academy

As the nature of policing has increased in complexity, the training provided by JIBC has evolved and adapted to the needs of the Policing & Security Branch in BC. Following creation of the BC Police College in 1975 to look after training of municipal police provincewide, the next major change was in 1978 when it became the Police Academy, one of the founding divisions of the new Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC).

In that first year, in addition to moving to the Jericho Hill campus, several new courses were developed and delivered: on the safe and effective use of the newly-adopted 26-inch baton for general patrol use; cardio pulmonary resuscitation; individualized physical fitness programs; an intensive and extensive Accident Investigation course as part of Traffic Studies; modified driver training; on giving effective presentations to groups; and the General Investigation Program, designed for experienced officers transferring from uniformed patrol to plainclothed investigations work.

Today, recruits leave the JIBC Police Academy with training in crisis intervention and de-escalation, fair and impartial policing, dealing with people from diverse backgrounds and those with autism, and professional communication skills.

What has stayed the same is the basic model of three blocks ­– two blocks of training at the Academy with one block in between out in the field – which have increased in length over the years, and the use of scenario-based training. Scenarios are graded using rubrics, actors are hired to make them as realistic as possible, and they are designed using adult education principles with expected outcomes.

Since 2015-2016, the use of scenarios has increased significantly thanks to research finding that learning is enhanced when it occurs within the context in which it will be applied. Today, recruits will typically learn some theory then apply it immediately in practical scenario situations, identified by “scenario in progress” signs dotting the New Westminster campus. 

Sheriff Academy

In 1974, nine county sheriff offices in BC merged into a single provincial department, B.C. Sheriff Services, and took over many duties formerly held by police officers, such as escorting prisoners and providing courtroom security.

Until then, deputy sheriffs had learned on the job. After a stint training at the former Willingdon Youth Detention Centre in Burnaby, they became part of JIBC, the Courts Service Training Division, in 1978.

The Sheriff Academy has gone from training recruits once hired, to a pre-employment model, and back again to the post-employment model since 2008. Their training now includes everything from legal studies, updated force response options, driver training communications, firearms and much more. Once Sheriffs have been on the job for a while they will receive opportunities to come back to JIBC and learn advanced skills such as motorcade driving at JIBC’s Driver Education Centre in Pitt Meadows, crowd management, threat management and response planning, and the Incident Command System, which is the model for command, control and coordination of a multi-agency emergency response.

Last updated January 12, 2019