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Intergenerational realities

Indigenous people make up a quarter of correctional inmates, writes Chrystal Dawne

For the first time in Canadian history, more than a quarter of inmates in the country’s prisons are Indigenous.

Canada’s Correctional Investigator Howard Sapers announced the news earlier this month, and expressed surprise.

But Mark Marsolais Nahwegahbow of IndiGenius & Associates, a firm that’s well known for contributions to Gladue Report standards and are often sought out to assist with Indigenous offenders, was less than surprised.

“Indigenous families are not shocked. Justice advocates, front line workers—none are shocked at these numbers,” he said.

Nahwegahbow and his colleagues continue to advocate for Indigenous youth and adults who are going through court, though their services don’t end with Gladue Reports.

“We offer training to groups who want to better support Indigenous defendants in accessing restorative justice. Our goal is to offer holistic, culturally appropriate support—before, during, and after care for the offender and their families,” he added.

“In some ways, this release of information is an opportunity for reconciliation and going forward will be interesting-to witness how this information inspires change.”

If you haven’t heard of Gladue Rights, read up on them below. The information is originally from the IndiGenius & Associates website.

Gladue Rights

First Nations, Métis or Inuit people have special rights called “Gladue Rights.” These rights require a judge to be informed of both the background and experiences of Indigenous people. The judge must take this into consideration when seeking bail or sentencing.

These rights apply to all Indigenous people, whether they are First Nations, Métis or Inuit. It doesn’t matter whether an Indigenous individual has ever lived on a reserve, or whether or not they have status; if they are Indigenous these rights are automatically available to them and the court must respect them.

Since 1996, the Canadian Criminal Code has required that Judges consider two things when an Indigenous person is being sentenced or considered for bail; a unique background and circumstances as an Indigenous person and find any alternatives to putting them in jail, as long as those alternatives are reasonable

Where did these rights come from?

In 1996, the Supreme Court of Canada heard a case involving an Indigenous woman named Jamie Gladue, who had been sentenced to jail by a court that did not consider her Indigenous heritage and background. The Supreme Court said that this was wrong, that judges must consider an Indigenous person’s life path before sentencing them, and must consider sentences other than jail. Because of this case, these requirements are now called “Gladue Rights.”

How do they work?

Since the Gladue case, we now know that whenever an Indigenous person is likely to lose their ‘liberty’ or freedom, their Gladue Rights must be respected. If the court does not do this, the court’s decision can be appealed.

Because the rights are triggered by possible loss of liberty, this means that Gladue Rights apply to:

  • bail hearings
  • parole hearings
  • dangerous offender hearings
  • not criminally responsible hearings
  • hearings before a mental health review board

If you, a family member or friend is facing any of these things, Gladue Rights must be respected.

 

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