New aboriginal courtroom in Calgary to host sentencing circles
With the smell of burning sweetgrass filling the air, a special ceremony heralded the opening of an aboriginal courtroom at the Calgary courthouse Friday.
Alberta Justice Minister Alison Redford joined aboriginal elders as they blessed Courtroom 1800 with a smudging ceremony.
The courtroom was included in the design of the new Calgary courthouse which opened a year and a half ago at a cost of half a billion dollars.
The room features special ventilation to allow for burning sweetgrass, and has a circular pattern on the carpet so sentencing circles can be held there.
"By having this space, it really speaks volumes to the justice system and the aboriginal community coming together," said Christy Morgan, from the Calgary Urban Aboriginal Initiative.
"Aboriginal people are over-represented highly in the justice system, so I think this is a great opportunity to have a neutral area that's actually a place that aboriginal people can feel comfortable and feel that their protocols and their ceremonies are being honoured."
The Tsuu T'ina Court will use the aboriginal courtroom for sentencing circles and for special occasions.
The room will be also used to familiarize courthouse staff and judges with aboriginal customs.