OTTAWA, ON, Jan. 20, 2022 /CNW/ - A justice system that improves public safety and community well-being while addressing the challenges faced by Indigenous peoples is something that all Canadians can be proud to support. Revitalizing Indigenous legal traditions and eliminating systemic racism and discrimination from our justice system will benefit everyone in Canada.
Today, the Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Honourable David Eby, Attorney General of British Columbia, and Doug White, Chair of the BC First Nations Justice Council (BCFNJC), announced the signing of a tripartite memorandum of understanding (MOU) to support the implementation of the BC First Nations Justice Strategy, as well as funding to support Indigenous Justice Centres in British Columbia.
Through this MOU, the governments of Canada and British Columbia and the BCFNJC have committed to work together on advancing shared priorities relating to Indigenous justice. That includes addressing the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in the justice system, and enhancing restorative justice and First Nations-led community justice programs. This important work will be guided by the principles outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and by an integrative, holistic and comprehensive approach to address all forms of interactions between Indigenous peoples and the justice system.
In February 2020, the Province of British Columbia and BCFNJC launched their First Nations Justice Strategy as part of an ongoing shared commitment to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in BC's justice system. A key goal under this strategy is to improve supports for Indigenous peoples by establishing Indigenous Justice Centres throughout the province.
These centres provide culturally appropriate legal information, advice, support and representation directly to Indigenous peoples at the community level. Through the Justice Partnership and Innovation Program, the Government of Canada will provide over $8.9 million over five years to the BCFNJC as it continues to support and expand the number of Indigenous Justice Centres in BC. This funding will also support the BCFNJC's Virtual Indigenous Justice Centre, a unique web-based platform that allows for the delivery of remote legal services to Indigenous peoples across the province.
The establishment of Indigenous Justice Centres in British Columbia and the partnership between the Government of Canada, the Government of British Columbia and the BCFNJC represent important steps in bringing meaningful transformation within the justice system and supports the recognition and implementation of Indigenous justice systems in British Columbia.
"This memorandum of understanding and funding commitment is a critical first step but much work still remains. We have a long road ahead of us but we also have a strong First Nations strategy to guide us and partners who support us. We look forward to working with both the federal and BC provincial government to transform the justice system for Indigenous peoples."
Doug White, Q.C.
Chair of the BC First Nations Justice Council
"All Indigenous people deserve fair and just treatment in our justice system. Our government is committed to advancing and supporting approaches, such as the establishment of Indigenous Justice Centres and the BC First Nations Justice Strategy, that help address systemic racism and the disproportionate representation of Indigenous peoples in the justice system. I look forward to collaborating with the province of British Columbia and the BCFNJC on this important work."
The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., Q.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
"An ever-growing disproportionate number of Indigenous people are in our jails, with the fastest growing population behind bars being Indigenous girls. We need to be doing things differently to address this profound crisis and disturbingly enduring provincial and national trend. We've already taken significant steps guided by Indigenous people themselves through BCFNJC and local First Nations to move to a justice system that better recognizes the unique justice needs of Indigenous people. I am glad that the Government of Canada will join British Columbia in our partnership with the BCFNJC to further support our commitments to real reform that will make a positive difference for people and communities across our province."
The Honourable David Eby, Q.C.
Attorney General of British Columbia
The signature of the MOU and funding for Indigenous Justice Centres respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action 30 and 38, and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls' Call for Justice 5.15.
Through the 2020 Fall Economic Statement, the Government of Canada provided $28.6 million over five years to support Community Justice Centre (CJC) pilot projects in British Columbia, Manitoba and Ontario, as well as consultation to expand the CJCs concept to other provinces and territories. The funding for Indigenous Justice Centres falls under this initiative.
CJCs—including BC's Indigenous Justice Centres—are an innovative approach for moving justice out of the traditional courtroom, and into a community setting. CJCs bring together justice, health, employment, education and social services to collectively address the root cause of crime, break the cycle, and improve public safety and community well-being. Through the integration of culturally appropriate services, CJCs can help decrease the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in the criminal justice system, and provide solutions to systemic issues.
Four Indigenous Justice Centres are already established in British Columbia—three physical centres in Prince George, Prince Rupert and Merritt, and one virtual centre that serves the rest of the province—with plans for more to be established in the years to come. The establishment of Indigenous Justice Centres across British Columbia is one of the key actions mandated in the BC First Nations Justice Strategy.
The BC First Nations Justice Strategy calls for 43 actions along two tracks of transformative change. Signed March 6, 2020, the strategy was jointly developed by the BC First Nations Justice Council, BC First Nations communities and the Province of British Columbia. In addition to the reformation of the current justice system, the strategy also seeks to restore First Nations' legal traditions and structures.
Follow Minister Lametti on Twitter: @MinJusticeEn
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SOURCE Department of Justice Canada
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