14 Oct, 2021
Towards Self-Determined Justice for Indigenous People in Canada
The overrepresentation of Indigenous persons in Canadian prisons continues to prevail despite increased efforts by courts to consider systemic factors and sentencing measures to address this crisis in the Canadian criminal justice system. Since the Supreme Court of Canada’s historical decision in R. v. Gladue,  1 S.C.R. 688, Gladue reports have become an indispensable sentencing tool providing the court with essential information about an Indigenous person’s unique circumstance and outlining viable and culturally appropriate sentencing alternatives to incarceration and/or restorative justice options. Gladue reports have also represented an opportunity for community engagement and empowerment necessary to support a rehabilitative path to healing. However, despite the increased availability of Gladue services, a significant disparity remains between the number of Indigenous men, women, youth and those who identify as non-binary genders in accessing Gladue reports.
In 2019, ICCLR published Production and Delivery of Gladue Pre-Sentence Reports: A Review of Selected Canadian Programs, a report surveying Gladue report writing programs in Canada while also considering the future state of Gladue report service delivery in British Columbia (BC). The report compares and presents information gathered about Gladue report service delivery models from interviews with 159 stakeholders from various jurisdictions in Canada and concludes with several recommendations concerning the need for future consultations, research, and data collection. The report also notes the need for greater funding to support Indigenous communities and organizations in their development of restorative justice resources, including those grounded in Indigenous laws and legal processes that support alternatives to jail that also meet the principles and purposes of sentencing. In alignment with these recommendations, the April 2021 transition of Gladue services from Legal Aid BC to the BC First Nations Justice Council (BCFNJC) has removed some barriers related to requesting a Gladue report. Now any First Nations, Métis, or Inuit person can request a Gladue report, whether or not they have a private lawyer or are a client of Legal Aid BC.
ICCLR, with support from the Law Foundation of British Columbia, continues to engage in an ongoing multi-year initiative aiming to better understand how technology can be used to increase access to Gladue reports for Indigenous peoples, particularly women, non-binary genders and youth living in remote communities in BC. With the first phase of this initiative successfully completed, ICCLR continues to work closely with partners such as UBC Law Professor, Patricia Barkaskas, project co-lead, Dallas Tooshkenig B.A., J.D., members of the BC First Nations Justice Council, community representatives, and other relevant Indigenous stakeholders to develop a virtual education campaign intended to educate and encourage greater access to and use of Gladue services by Indigenous women, youth and non-binary genders. Once completed, this Indigenous led and informed project, which is the first of its kind, will help increase greater access to justice for Indigenous people, especially those living in remote communities of BC, since the educational campaign shares the most updated information about Gladue rights and resources in one permanent online location.
ICCLR remains committed in its ongoing efforts to improve and increase access in the delivery of a justice system that reflects the values of the community it serves. These initiatives also support ICCLR’s longstanding dedication to supporting greater access to alternatives to incarceration. Through education and awareness, this will help to build a strong foundation for future evolution in access to Gladue services and will provide a platform for increasing both self-determination and autonomy for Indigenous communities involved with the criminal justice system.
Photo by Sonya Romanovska on Unsplash.