Panel dis­cusses over-in­car­cer­a­tion of Indige­nous peo­ple

Gladue prin­ci­ple seeks to “equal­ize” ap­pli­ca­tion of laws

The McGill Daily - - News - Nadir Khan The Mcgill Daily

On Tues­day March 15, a panel event called “Gladue Courts” was held at Mcgill’s Fac­ulty of Law to dis­cuss how Indige­nous peo­ple are treated in the Cana­dian crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem. Or­ga­nized by law stu­dents Lana Bel­ber and Alice Mir­lesse, with sup­port from the Abo­rig­i­nal Law Stu­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion and SSMU Indige­nous Af­fairs, the event specif­i­cally sought to shed light on an of­ten ne­glected as­pect of sen­tenc­ing in Cana­dian crim­i­nal law — the Gladue prin­ci­ple — which seeks to al­le­vi­ate the over-in­car­cer­a­tion of Indige­nous peo­ple.

Among the panelists was Ai­dan John­son, a for­mer lawyer at Le­gal Aid On­tario who has reg­u­larly rep­re­sented Indige­nous peo­ple in the past. John­son ex­plained that the Gladue de­ci­sion of the Supreme Court of Canada led to a change in the Crim­i­nal Code which re­quires judges and lawyers to pay par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to the unique his­tory and cir­cum­stances of Indige­nous peo­ple. It par­tic­u­larly re­quires that al­ter­na­tives to jail time be con­sid­ered when an Indige­nous per­son is sen­tenced fol­low­ing a con­vic­tion.

“Con­cern for the over-rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ples in jails is a fac­tor un­der­pin­ning Gladue law,” John­son ex­plained. “Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple don’t get a fair shake in the jus­tice sys­tem, the rules are not ap­plied equally to them, so Gladue is an equal­iz­ing mea­sure.”

The panelists ex­pressed frus­tra­tion with the le­gal com­mu­nity’s re­sponse to im­ple­ment­ing the Gladue prin­ci­ple. Vivien Carli, pro­gram man­ager of the Un­galuk Safer Com­mu­ni­ties Pro­gram at Makivik Cor­po­ra­tion, ex­plained that there are few peo­ple prop­erly trained to write Gladue re­ports, and that those who are face time con­straints.

“To give you an idea, the Gladue writer is given 20 hours to write a re­port. [...] You have 20 hours to go in, of­ten in a de­ten­tion cen­ter, and talk to some­one who you have never met be­fore, and get them to open up and tell you about all their trauma and fam­ily his­tory – maybe for the first time in their life. You can imag­ine the chal­lenges.”

Wayne Robin­son, who, with Carli, re­cently founded the First Peo­ple’s Jus­tice Cen­tre ( FPJC) of Mon­treal, ex­plained the im­por­tance of com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions fill­ing in the gaps be­yond Gladue re­ports.

“Af­ter the Gladue re­port [is writ­ten], the writer leaves, and we’ve opened up a trauma there and there’s no con­tin­uum of ser­vice,” said Robin­son. “The FPJC pro­vides a con­tin­uum of ser­vice from pre- of­fence to post-in­car­cer­a­tion for Indige­nous of­fend­ers, en­sur­ing that Gladue is not just a tool to talk about sen­tenc­ing, but as a more holis­tic ap­proach.

Mir­lesse, a sec­ond year law stu­dent at Mcgill, ex­plained to The Daily that the orig­i­nal idea for the event emerged from an as­sign­ment that sec­ond year law stu­dents were given re­gard­ing Gladue prin­ci­ples. The or­ga­niz­ers wanted to “give an op­por­tu­nity to re­flect on these prin­ci­ples and what they meant for the com­mu­nity,” Mir­lesse said. Mir­lesse added that, with­out suf­fi­cient con­text, through which stu­dents could be made aware of the colo­nial and racist lega­cies of Cana­dian leg­is­la­tion, there was “too big of a risk for stu­dents to per­pet­u­ate stereo­types of col­o­niza­tion and racial prej­u­dice.”

An­dré Moreau, a Metis stu­dent in his first year of Mcgill law school who at­tended the event told The Daily, “I thought it was re­ally nice to see dif­fer­ent points of view, from the polic­ing side to the com­mu­nity side, even a more le­gal side.”

“Gladue is def­i­nitely a start­ing point. There has to be some sort of method to ad­dress this is­sue when it comes to jus­tice. How­ever it is a broader is­sue with ac­cess to health­care and ed­u­ca­tion as well, be­cause they all go hand in hand at the end of the day,” Moreau said.

“Con­cern for over­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ples in jails is a fac­tor un­der­pin­ning Gladue law.” Ai­dan John­son, for­mer lawyer at Le­gal Aid On­tario

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