First Nation community to see new court system

A new therapeutic court system will be placed in a first nations community in New Brunswick.

A new therapeutic court system will be placed in a First Nations community in southeast New Brunswick.

A new three-and-a-half year pilot project — called the Healing to Wellness Court — is due to begin this fall in the Elsipogtog First Nation.

The province's justice minister said the current system in Elsipogtog isn't addressing their needs.

Community leaders say the new pilot project will go far in addressing problems that land some people in court in the first place, such as mental health issues and substance abuse.

Tammy Augustine, the justice co-ordinator at Elsipogtog, said she's been pushing for this court system for a very long time, and is shocked it's coming to light.

Augustine said the Healing to Wellness court would provide long-term help that the current system can't offer.

Augustine said only certain offenders will qualify, based on recommendations by the Crown and community leaders.

"They have to accept responsibility for their actions, they have to have either alcohol or drug addiction issues or both or manageable mental health issues or concerns that we can deal with at the community level," said Augustine.

Augustine said a treatment and healing team will come up with a treatment plan that can last from 18 months to three years.

The plan will be supervised by medical and mental-health professionals as well as Elsipogtog elders.

Marie-Claude Blais, New Brunswick's justice minister, hopes the project will be expanded to other First Nations communities.

"We have aboriginal communities that are willing to take responsibilities within their own communities, that are well organized, that provide wonderful services and they're doing that to help their community and I think government should be very supportive of that approach," said Blais.

The Healing to Wellness court will be up and running in October.