Laurie Halfpenny-MacQuarrie, the presiding judge at the Wagmatcook Courthouse, said there’s interest in recreating the unique court across the country. (CBC)
The presiding judge at a new provincial court that incorporates Indigenous restorative justice traditions and customs says she’s been getting calls from across the country asking how it can be replicated in other communities.
"I have had calls from coast, to coast, to coast," said Laurie Halfpenny-MacQuarrie. "’How did you do this? What does it look like? How can we do it? Will you help?’"
She said the court in Wagmatcook First Nation in Cape Breton will be a template for the rest of Canada.
Halfpenny-MacQuarrie will be giving a presentation about the court at a conference in Ontario in a few weeks, and plans on travelling to First Nations communities to help establish similar courts. A wake-up call
"This is the right thing to do," she said. "This was a wake-up call to have this court in this community."
The province’s legal system has taken steps toward change since the wrongful conviction of Donald Marshall Jr., she said, including the establishment of the Mi’kmaq Legal Support Network and the court workers program.
"For me, this is the last step in completing the circle."
Donald Marshall Jr. served 11 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit.
The new court follows the recommendation from the 1989 Marshall Inquiry to have more provincial court sittings in Nova Scotian Mi’kmaq communities. Wagmatcook First Nation Chief Norman Bernard said the court is a great example of reconciliation. (CBC) "The Wagmatcook courthouse is perhaps the best example of reconciliation with Indigenous people through the courts," Wagmatcook First Nation Chief Norman Bernard said.
The court combines provincial court services, along with Aboriginal wellness court and Gladue court.
Gladue refers to a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that requires courts to take Indigenous circumstances into account when handing down a sentence.
The wellness court is for Indigenous offenders who plead guilty and take responsibility for their actions, and for those who are at a high risk to reoffend.
It delays sentencing for up to 24 months to allow for rehabilitation.
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