After years in the making, a First Nation on Manitoulin Island will become home to a specialized sentencing court for Indigenous people who have been convicted of a crime.
Wiikwemkoong First Nation is getting a Gladue Court.
Like other courts in the province, Gladue Courts — or Indigenous People’s Courts — have judges, crown attorney and defence lawyers or duty counsel.
What distinguishes them is that they are based on restorative approaches of healing, with Elders and First Nation Justice Program workers participating in circles at the court.
There are 13 other Gladue Courts in Ontario, named after a Supreme Court of Canada decision that requires courts to take reasonable alternatives to incarceration into account, with particular attention to the circumstances of Indigenous offenders.
Wiikwemkoong Chief Duke Peltier said his community has been working to make the court a reality.
"Essentially all circumstances are considered and all opportunities are put forward on how to reintegrate an individual back into the community, as well as wrapping as many services as possible to allow for rehabilitation to the highest degree," he said. Wiikwemkoong Chief Duke Peltier says the Glaude court allows individuals convicted of a crime to take responsibility for their actions in their community. (Waubgeshig Rice/CBC) In addition to the focus on restorative justice and rehabilitation, Peltier said the court will benefit members of the community who face challenges in the legal system.
"They would have to travel normally to appear before a sitting justice in Gore Bay and find means and ways to get there, when they’re already dealing with other social issues and circumstances that have been troubling them for many years."
Peltier said overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the correctional system is a problem across Canada, but the Gladue Court gives convicted individuals the opportunity to take responsibility for their actions.
He added that the court also helps create a sense of responsibility to the community.
"It does allow for that holistic healing approach to be incorporated into not only with the individual but also with the community, and improving the relationships between mainstream justice and our peoples."
The court will convene once a month in Wiikwemkoong.
With files from Wendy Bird.
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