PEI

Mi'kmaq justice leader seeks 'equity' in P.E.I. courts

Indigenous people make up three per cent of Canada's population, but 20 per cent of the prison population. Gladue reports are one way First Nations on P.E.I. right the scales of justice.

First Nations provide courts with social-cultural background of offenders through Gladue reports

"We look at what brought the offender to where they are today," says Lori St. Onge, director of aboriginal justice, Mi'kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

A pilot project is winding down that Indigenous leaders on P.E.I. say helped ensure justice for Aboriginal offenders in P.E.I. courts.

The one-year funding arrangement with the province paid for Gladue reports, prepared by the Mi'kmaq Confederacy of PEI.

"It's about equity in criminal sentencing," said Lori St. Onge, director of aboriginal justice for MCPEI.

Gladue reports, named after the Aboriginal woman from B.C. who established the legal precedent in 1999, are prepared by First Nations communities to supply judges with background information on offenders. They provide social and cultural context, and may include details of past victimization of the offenders, such as physical or sexual abuse, alcohol and drug addictions.

The report writers will go into the community and often interview the offender, and family members, sometimes going back generations to understand the history of the offender.

Over the past year, the confederacy compiled about a dozen reports for use by P.E.I. judges as they determined jail sentences for Aboriginal offenders.

Aboriginal people are over-represented in Canada's prisons- Lori St. Onge, Mi'kmaq Confederacy of Prince Edward Island

Last month, a Gladue report was used in sentencing a man who had pleaded guilty to sex offences against three children. The judge sent him to prison for two years, and to probation for three years upon his release. The judge said restorative justice measures, as prescribed by Aboriginal justice leaders, might be explored during the probationary period.

"Canada's Aboriginal people are over-represented in Canada's prisons," said St. Onge, "Offenders who plead guilty to their crimes have a legal right to request a Gladue report."

P.E.I. court re-affirms legal right

That legal right was re-confirmed in a recent decision by the P.E.I. court of appeals. In that case, an Indigenous offender had his sentence over-turned because a Gladue report had not been prepared.

Each report costs about $1,500 to prepare, according to the Mi'kmaq Confederacy.

The confederacy is now exploring funding options, as the pilot project that provided provincial funding winds down.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that each report costs about $3,000 to prepare. In fact, they cost $1,500 to prepare.
    Aug 03, 2016 12:14 PM AT

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