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Martha May Kahnapace believes in Glade reports, court-ordered documents that provide a judge with background on an aboriginal offender. Martha May Kahnapace believes in Gladue reports, the court-ordered documents that provides judges with background information on Aboriginal offenders.

The B.C. woman has nothing but praise for the writer who presented a report to the judge at her sentencing after she was convicted of killing her partner during a drunken, drug-induced fight.

“If they’re done properly, they’re very, very helpful,” said Kahnapace, who is a member of the We Wai Kai (Cape Mudge) First Nation, which is based on Quadra Island and in Campbell River. “Judges need to be more open to accepting them.”

Kahnapace received a sentence of time served after an 8½ year court battle during which two murder convictions were overturned and eventually substituted with a conviction for the lesser offence of manslaughter.

She didn’t know until a year after he died that her father, whom she described as being “angry, bitter and an alcoholic,” had been in a residential school.

“I didn’t understand the way things were at the time because I didn’t know a lot about it. I didn’t know about residential schools. To me our way of life was normal. If it was someone else looking in, it would be totally dysfunctional and not just the normal way of living.”

She spent much of her childhood in foster homes. She become an alcoholic and an intravenous drug user at a young age.

Those details and others were outlined in her Gladue report and were considered by the judge in crafting the sentence. Patchwork system

Gladue reports are routinely ordered for the most serious offences, but critics say the systems for delivering them in B.C. and elsewhere in Canada are a patchwork at best.

The reports are aimed at trying to deal with the grossly disproportionate number of Aboriginal offenders incarcerated in Canada, a problem that has plagued the country for more than two decades and is on the rise.

Figures on the Statistics Canada website note that, in 2015-16, Aboriginal adults accounted for 27 per cent of provincial and territorial jail admissions, while representing only about three per cent of Canada’s population. The incarceration rates for Aboriginal women — they make up 38 per cent of committals — are even more worrying.

A recent study by an Ottawa think-tank found that B.C. has one of the most disproportionally high levels of Indigenous incarceration in Canada.

In 1996, Parliament recognized there was a crisis and amended the Criminal Code to direct judges to look at all available sanctions, other than just prison, that are reasonable in the circumstances, with particular attention to Aboriginal offenders.

In 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada released its Gladue decision, which also dealt with a B.C. Aboriginal woman who was convicted of manslaughter. The ruling set out factors that should be considered in the sentencing of Indigenous offenders, urging judges to use a restorative justice approach to sentencing. Restorative justice involves bringing together the victim, offender and some members of the community to discuss the effects of crime and includes such things as Aboriginal healing circles.

In 2012, a second ruling from Canada’s highest court basically repeated the message of Gladue, finding that the situation had got worse.

“There’s a complete lack of any kind of national strategy in relation to it,” said Doug White, co-chair of the B.C. Aboriginal Justice Council and the secretary of the Gladue Writers Society of B.C. “You see across the country, there’s a very ad hoc approach to the implementation of Gladue.“Some provinces do nothing, some provinces take a very impoverished approach. The only two provinces that have […]

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