Skip to main content

42. Commit to the recognition and implementation of Aboriginal justice systems

Not started


No Indigenous justice systems have yet been fully implemented either federally, provincially or in the territories.

The Call to Action:

We call upon the federal, provincial and territorial governments to commit to the recognition and implementation of Aboriginal justice systems in a manner consistent with the Treaty and Aboriginal Rights of Aboriginal peoples, the Constitutional Act, 1982 and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, endorsed by Canada in November 2012.


No Indigenous justice systems have yet been fully implemented either federally, provincially or in the territories.

Several provinces have established “Indigenous courts” or “Gladue courts” that aim to address the factors that lead to overrepresentation of Indigenous people in corrections but they still operate within their respective provincial justice systems, and often focus only on sentencing.

In May 2019, the Department of Justice participated in a two-day symposium called Exploring Indigenous Justice Systems in Canada and around the World.

According to the federal government website, “the goal was to generate ideas on what Indigenous justice systems could look like in Canada, and how they could be integrated into Canada’s justice system.”

In April 2019, the Government of Canada and Red Earth Cree Nation in Saskatchewan signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding the creation of an Indigenous justice system.

But the MOU only committed to guide “future exploratory discussions on the administration of justice.”

In a 2018 statement to CBC News, a spokesperson states the Department of Justice supports “the federal government in the establishment of Aboriginal justice systems through negotiation of administration of Justice chapters in self-government agreements.”

The Department of Justice also reiterated the federal government is “committed to renewing relationships with Indigenous Peoples based on recognition and implementation of rights consistent with section 35 of the Constitution and UNDRIP.”

In February 2018, the federal government formally committed to create a legal framework to recognize Indigenous rights.

To do so, the federal government is reviewing laws and policies related to Indigenous Peoples, led by a “working group of six ministers chaired by the Minister of Justice and will in partnership with Indigenous peoples … build mechanisms for supporting Indigenous legal orders and systems of justice consistent with self-determination and the inherent right of self-government.”

In November 2018, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett’s office said the framework would not be ready before the next federal election in 2019.

In September 2016, Public Safety Canada led public stakeholder meetings to gain insight regarding best ways to restructure the First Nations Policing Program (FNPP) once the current agreement concludes in April 2018.

Currently, through the FNPP, the federal government funds half the policing costs for 400 First Nations and Inuit communities across Canada.

In the Public Safety Canada hearings, stakeholders prioritized making the next agreement reflect “significant Indigenous involvement, input and control” of judicial policing services.

In November 2017, several Indigenous communities mounted legal challenges against the federal government, arguing the quality of policing services provided to their communities falls below standards, in part due to insufficient federal and provincial funding.

In response, in January 2018, the federal government announced a commitment of up to $291.1 million, over five years for policing in First Nations and Inuit communities.

But $107 million of that funding was already earmarked for it in the 2017 federal budget.

Furthermore, a portion of that funding - $44.8 million - earmarked to fund additional officer positions, is not scheduled to be implemented until 2019-2020; an election is expected by October 2019 and a new government might have different priorities.