Offers culturally sensitive sentencing
WIIKWEMKOONG–Regional Senior Justice Patrick Boucher has confirmed that the office of the Chief Justice of Ontario approved a specialized criminal court in Manitoulin, the Wiikwemkoong Gladue Court.
“We are very pleased with the approval of the Wiikwemkoong Gladue Court,” said Wiikwemkoong Ogimaa Duke Peltier. “Our Justice is currently involved in implementing steps to begin the process.”
The new court will take another step toward addressing the disconnect between the Canadian justice system and Anishinaabe traditional values and approaches to justice.
“This specialized criminal court will aim to make the court more culturally sensitive and appropriate for Wiikwemkoong Anishinabek and will consider the sensitive history and background of the individuals in sentencing,” continued Ogimaa Peltier. “Supports and programs available in the community will be utilized to help with underlying issues of the individual who has come before the court.”
Ogimaa Peltier said that the new court will build upon the justice program that the community is establishing.
The Gladue Court is a sentencing court that will be open to Wiikwemkoong Anishinabek who plead guilty to or are found guilty of criminal charges in the Ontario Court of Justice. It is based on restorative approaches of healing, with elders and Wiikwemkoong Justice Program workers participating in circles at the court. The judge, Crown attorney and defence or duty counsel will also be active participants in the circles.
“Traditional Anishinaabe justice focuses on the offender’s responsibility to the community,” noted Ogimaa Peltier, unlike the general approach of the Canadian system which focuses more on retribution and punishment, rather than rehabilitation and reintegration into the community. “The Canadian system never has focused on reintegration,” said Ogimaa Peltier. “It was more of ‘here is the crime, this is the punishment,’ then ‘out the door with you, don’t let it hit you on the way out’.”
He pointed out that with the existing system, the court really doesn’t offer any opportunity for the offender to answer to and be accountable to the community.
Currently, there are 13 other Gladue Courts in Ontario, also known as Indigenous Peoples Courts. These courts began after the 1999 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that required courts to consider the unique circumstances, systemic and personal factors that may have contributed to an Indigenous person coming before the court. The courts are seeking to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in criminal courts and custody. The courts further build on Section 718 of the Criminal Code which directs courts to consider circumstances of Indigenous offenders and possible alternatives to imprisonment.
Work on revising the court system to better reflect community values and priorities began in 2013 and sought to bring about appropriate services that are available to the community, said Ogimaa Peltier. He pointed out that the number one determinate of ending up before the courts has been poverty. “The Gladue system enables the courts to take into account all of the circumstances of the individual,” he said.
To start, the Wiikwemkoong Gladue Court will be held at the Wiikwemkoong Administration Complex once a month. The Gladue Court will be integrated into the existing court schedule.