New federal, provincial funds to support Indigenous people in P.E.I. justice system
Up to $100,000 to establish an Indigenous court worker, and enhance other services
A new position has been created to better support Indigenous people in the justice system on P.E.I. — funded through a bilateral agreement between the province and the federal Department of Justice aimed at reducing recidivism and promoting healing.
The funding is up to $100,000 and will help expand the Mi'kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I.'s Indigenous Justice Program, and establish an Indigenous court worker position.
Loretta Carroll, senior program co-ordinator of the Indigenous Justice Program at MCPEI, says the funds will go a long way in offering more substantial, and lasting, support for the people she serves.
"It's going to be huge," said Carroll.
"They're going to get the support with this Indigenous worker program, before, in the middle and after. And be able to follow through … and not just abandon them. Because right now, everything that's being done out there, [offenders] get out and then there's nothing for them."
She said the Indigenous court worker will be tasked with ensuring culturally relevant, fair and equitable treatment for Indigenous people in the justice system, by acting as a support person through every step of the legal process.
"Essentially clients right now are going to court and not understanding the system," said Carroll. "This has been going on for a while, so this person is going to give them the support they need so that clients know they're being heard. And that's really important in this whole process. And trust … it needs to be based on trust."
Carroll said the Indigenous court worker will also assist with training — and improving communications — between those who support Indigenous people in the system, and law enforcement and court personnel.
'I want them to know that they are being heard'
She said it's important Islanders understand why a position like this is needed; because everything from intergenerational trauma to addictions can impact how Indigenous people in the system behave, and what might help them find a path away from crime.
"They need to be aware of the Indigenous people and the culture, the language, things that they've gone through, like IRS [Indian Residential Schools] and substance abuse," said Carroll.
"Not to say that it's just Indigenous people, but there's been a lot of past history that needs to be worked through and to be understood and to be honoured. There's been so much that's happened with Indigenous people."
She said the job posting for the Indigenous court worker will be made available across Canada this week, and she' s hopeful to see the position filled next month. In the meantime, work will continue on other initiatives such as the establishment of a sweat lodge and a medicine wheel garden — all in the hopes of showing Indigenous people they aren't alone.
"I plan to honour and respect the Indigenous people in our community and help them walk in a good way, with strength, resilience and the wisdom of our ancestors," said Carroll.
"I want to maintain the way of the Indigenous people and I want them to know that they are being heard, that they matter and we're here to look out for them."