THE ADVOCATE V O L . 7 5 P A R T 2 M A R C H 2 0 1 7 197 minimal conditions risk their client’s credibility. If defence counsel challenges the opinion of an elder or only addresses Judge Buller, then the purpose of involving the First Nations community is diminished.13 As a result, sometimes a defence lawyer’s best submission is silence. After offenders are sentenced, they are expected to reappear before the court once a month for the duration of their healing plan. Defence counsel are usually not present during these checkups. Instead, their clients explain to the court their progress and allow the elders to cross-examine them. The court reacts to their responses. Emotions range from threatening the offender with conventional court to openly weeping about “systemic racism” that pervades Canadian society. A breach of probation means that the pre-sentencing reports or the offender did not disclose the extent of their social problems. “Lapses” do not automatically return individuals to conventional courts. At the end of the offender’s healing plan, the judge places a blanket embroidered with traditional symbols around the individual’s shoulders to acknowledge the offender’s new life. Judge Buller estimates that over 50 per cent of offenders receive this honour.14 The success of First Nations Court can be measured from its growth and unexpected achievements. Within seven years of its initiation, First Nations Courts have appeared in North Vancouver (2012), Kamloops (2013) and Duncan (2013). On March 28, 2017, the New Westminster First Nations Court will welcome the Aboriginal Family Hearing Court. She also envisions cultural training for the defence bar.15 An unanticipated result is that the representatives of First Nations communities perceive the court as part of the government’s reconciliation efforts.16 Instead of supporting a segregated aboriginal justice system or fighting subjugation under the conventional system, First Nations Court provides them with a “happy medium” that saves their members from incarceration. ENDNOTES 1. Corrections Branch, “A Profile of BC Corrections”, (Victoria: Ministry of Justice, October 2013) at 13. “Identified as aboriginal” refers to individuals who reported as First Nations, Métis, Inuit, Native or aboriginal. 2. Office of the Correctional Investigator of Canada, “Annual Report 2015–2016”, (Ottawa: OCI, 2016) at 43. The national “aboriginal populace” refers to individuals who reported as First Nations, Métis, Inuit, and/or Registered or Treaty Indian and/or being a member of a First Nations or Indian band. See infra note 4 at 21. 3. Ibid. 4. Statistics Canada, “Aboriginal Peoples in Canada: First Nations People, Métis and Inuit: The National Household Survey”, Catalogue No 99-011- X2011001 (Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 2013) at 15. 5. R v Moses (1992), 71 CCC (3d) 347 (Yukon Terr Ct). Yukon Circuit Court Judge Barry Stuart established the first sentencing circle in an effort to “merge First Nations and Western government’s values”. 6. Anonymous interview at the New Westminster Courthouse (25 September 2014). 7. The accused entered pleas on October 23, 2014. 8. Interview of Amber Katzel and Julie Wright, Native Courtworkers (28 November 2014) at the Provincial Courthouse on 222 Main Street, Vancouver. 9. Interview of Daniel Holloway, clinic supervisor (28 November 2014). 10. Gladue rights require the sentencing judge to acknowledge the historical disadvantages of aboriginals and how the social problems that arose from these disadvantages continue to affect future generations. The name is borrowed from R v Gladue, 1999 1 SCR 688.
March Pages 2017
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