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196 V O L . 7 5 P A R T 2 M A R C H 2 0 1 7 THE ADVOCATE Legal Clinic. In New Westminster, the federal Crown recently approved7 the first “dial-a-dope” drug trafficking case. The accused was caught in a sting operation with heroin, crystal meth and cocaine. His conditional sentence required counseling, a victim fine surcharge and a tour of UBC. The court also encouraged him to continue painting West Vancouver homes and consider applying to law school. For the Indigenous Community Legal Clinic, having the choice of First Nations Court is important.8 Many of the accused do not recognize the colonial legal system,9 and none of them are initially aware of their Gladue rights.10 The assurance of a probation order in the First Nations Court versus the uncertainty of the Provincial Court can affect their plea.11 However, the clinic warns clients that First Nations Court is no ceremonial peace pipe. It requires them to confront their community. Elders, family, friends, social workers and even chiefs attend New Westminster’s First Nations Court. Established in 2006, it is the first courtdirected restorative justice initiative in the Lower Mainland. The seating arrangement resembles a dining room: the public is placed at one end, counsel sit across from each other, and the clerks and judge sit at the other end. The court begins with either a prayer circle or the igniting of incense in a clamshell that is carried around the room. All briefly introduce themselves to the other participants. The Crown calls the f irst matter, and the founder of the court, Judge Marion Buller, explains the process to the newcomer. The community expects the accused to take responsibility for their actions and commit to rehabilitation programs. If they enter a guilty plea, then they must contribute suggestions to their own “healing plan” as the conditions of their 12- or 18-month probation order.12 An unusual feature of these plans is a spiritual component that allows offenders to reconnect with their culture. Examples include learning an aboriginal language, researching the effects of residential schools or creating a family tree. After the charges are read and the guilty pleas are entered, a pre-sentencing report with a Gladue component or a full Gladue report is ordered. Certified Gladue writers research the personal history of the individual and provide sentencing recommendations to the judge. Two months later, the offender and his or her lawyer return to face the elders. In First Nations Court, the role of defence lawyers adjusts to accommodate the elders. The court allows the elders to review the pre-sentencing reports and to have standing throughout the proceedings. They represent the consensus of the community and are knowledgeable about the resources available to the offender. Consequently, lawyers who advocate for


March Pages 2017
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