'They don't have much of a system:' Advocates, experts call for better Gladue reporting in N.B.

Advocates and experts say New Brunswick needs to move beyond relying on pre-sentencing reports written by corrections staff to Gladue reports done by Indigenous writers.

Recent report on systemic racism in N.B. called for developing Gladue reporting expertise

An Indigenous man holds a dog, as he wears a blue shirt.
Jared Sacobie is a Wolastoqew man who says understanding intergenerational trauma was important to understanding his own pain. (Jared Sacobie/CBC)

Jared Sacobie, a 32-year-old Wolastoqew man, has had numerous pre-sentencing reports while in the justice system, but none were conducted by an Indigenous person or person with connections to his community and none were true Gladue reports.

Gladue reports, which spell out an Indigenous person's personal and familial history for the courts, stem from the 1999 R v Gladue decision when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled judges must consider the unique circumstances of Indigenous offenders before they are sentenced.

Developing expertise in New Brunswick to write Gladue reports was among the recommendations made in a report on systemic racism in the province released last month.

Having a Gladue report written by an Indigenous person may have made a difference for Sacobie.

"They can really resonate and empathize and really, like, relate to it a lot more than someone who didn't grow up the way we did," Sacobie said.

After his most recent incarceration, he said he learned what intergenerational trauma was for the first time in a course he took outside of the judicial system. He said it helped him understand how the pain of being taken away from home at a young age lingered with him.

Sacobie said surviving intergenerational trauma isn't an excuse for his actions, but knowing about it gave him a better understanding of the pain he was feeling.

What are Gladue reports?

1 year ago
Duration 2:52
Gladue reports explain an Indigenous person’s history, their family's history and their community's history to the courts, in order to take the individual’s unique circumstances and challenges into consideration.

Cheryl Simon, a Mi'kmaw assistant professor at the school of law at Dalhousie University, said Gladue reports are critical in ensuring people aren't treated like statistics. She said the reports help the courts understand how an Indigenous person ended up in front of a judge.

Simon used to write Gladue reports in Nova Scotia and said they tell a person's life story and provide recommendations of alternatives to incarceration for a judge to consider, like cultural healing and support.

"They don't have much of a system," Simon said of New Brunswick's Gladue process.

"I know that the communities are working with Justice to implement and get Gladue reports, which considering the fact that it's a 1999 decision that actually started it, it's really behind the times."

An Indigenous woman sits for a head shot.
Cheryl Simon is a Mi'kmaw assistant professor at Dalhousie University and has written Gladue reports. (Dalhousie University )

Simon said she was surprised the report on systemic racism didn't go further in its recommendations to the province; it didn't propose Gladue reporting systems or Gladue courts, something that exists in other jurisdictions.

Gladue reports, she said, address the effects of systemic racism, intergenerational trauma and the effects of genocide within Canada; when a province like New Brunswick doesn't implement proper Gladue reporting, a lot is missed.

"What's missing is justice," said Simon.

The province of New Brunswick currently has its pre-sentencing reports written by parole officers, while Gladue writers like Naomi Millier are still waiting for work.

An Indigenous woman with brown hair.
Naomi Millier is a trained Gladue writer living in New Brunswick but says she hasn't gotten a chance to write one. (Mackenzie Marshall Keirstead )

Millier is Blackfoot from Piikani Nation in Alberta, and lives in New Brunswick with connections to Bilick, Kingsclear First Nation. Millier was trained to write Gladue reports last year but said her talents haven't been used in the province and it's upsetting.

"I feel a big responsibility and I feel in some way I'm failing on that responsibility," she said.

"I feel that every month that passes that I'm not using my training, I might forget it. I would love to help people."

The province of New Brunswick said since 1999 it prepared 2,252 pre-sentencing reports for Indigenous people — 2031 for adults and 483 for youths.

The province said in an emailed statement it would be taking time to review the systemic racism report, and that its pre-sentencing reports are adequate.

"The Department of Justice and Public Safety prepares a report that meets all requirements of the Gladue and Ipeelee decision, for every offender who identifies as Indigenous for whom a pre-sentence report is requested," said spokesperson Erika Jutras in the statement.

Sacobie said he would like to see an Indigenous liaison help Indigenous people navigate the judicial system in New Brunswick in the future.


Oscar Baker III is a Black and Mi’kmaw reporter from Elsipogtog First Nation. He is the Atlantic region reporter for CBC Indigenous. He is a proud father and you can follow his work @oggycane4lyfe