Provincial Court puts focus on Indigenous Justice

Provincial Court of Alberta
Provincial Court of Alberta

EDMONTON, Alberta, Sept. 28, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Provincial Court of Alberta has outlined the concrete steps it is taking to provide a culturally relevant, restorative, and holistic system of justice for Indigenous individuals that access the Court.

At a rare public press event on September 28, Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of Alberta Derek Redman formally announced the Court’s Indigenous Justice Strategy. The Indigenous Justice Strategy is the product of two years of discussions with leaders of Indigenous communities across the Province as well as with leaders of legal and service organizations that interact with those communities.   The Indigenous Justice Strategy is intended to serve as a response to some of the pervasive issues faced by the diverse community of Indigenous individuals who access the Court. It represents a preliminary step on the part of the Court as it continues to fulfill its ongoing obligation to listen and engage in collaborative dialogue with Indigenous communities so as to better understand their distinct priorities.

The 20 concrete steps of the Indigenous Justice Strategy include:

  • Providing educational opportunities so as to ensure broad-based understanding of the history, heritage, and laws of local communities as well as an understanding of and, where appropriate, the participation in cultural activities

  • Supporting the establishment of restorative justice programs and Indigenous courts to meet the needs of local communities

  • Conducting annual meetings between the leadership of the Courts and the leadership of Treaty 6, 7 and 8 as well as with the leadership of the Métis Nation of Alberta and the Métis Settlements

  • Incorporation of Indigenous cultural practices in courthouses and courtrooms where appropriate

  • Encouraging Indigenous applications for employment in various capacities within the court system

  • Mentorship programs for Indigenous lawyers and students

  • Observing the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

“The Court’s 2021-2024 Strategic Plan includes Indigenous Initiatives as a priority,” Provincial Court of Alberta Chief Judge Derek Redman said. “The leadership of this Court has spent the past two years listening to people from across the Indigenous communities of this province, and we are ready to put what we’ve heard – what we’ve learned – into action. We will continue to listen and to respond.”

"The Métis Nation is pleased to continue the dialogue with the Provincial Court towards achieving a common goal of ensuring meaningful access to justice for all Indigenous people, including Métis Nation citizens throughout the province,” Métis Nation of Alberta president Audrey Poitras said. “We look forward to continued positive relationship building ensuring that Métis perspectives are more than a footnote, no longer the forgotten people.”

“The Provincial Court of Alberta's Indigenous Justice Strategy is important because it will lead to new, vital relationships between the court and Indigenous communities and organizations,” said Honourable Marion R. Buller, C.M., former Chief Commissioner of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. “The Indigenous Justice Strategy embraces the principles and Calls for Justice of National Inquiry. These new relationships will shape the future of the court by creating collaborative change. Collaborative change will lead to meaningful changes to Alberta's justice system.”

“Native Counselling Services of Alberta has been pleased to be a part of the consultation on the Provincial Court Indigenous Strategy over the past year. In cooperation with Yellowhead Tribal Council, the court officials acted on our joint recommendation to implement Indigenous Court in Edmonton and other urban centres. After several months of operation, Indigenous Court has shown that by addressing historic and inter generational trauma, indigenous people can change their lives in meaningful ways with wrap around community supports. Native counselling services of Alberta supports the Indigenous Strategy and looks forward to engaging with court officials on the implementation of other aspects of the Provincial Court’s Indigenous Strategy,” Native Counselling Services of Alberta Chief Executive Officer Marlene Orr said.

“The work done in the development of the Provincial Court’s Indigenous Justice Strategy was completed after meaningful consultation with the Indigenous community over the past year. Yellowhead Tribal Council and Native Counselling Services of Alberta has been working with the courts to implement Indigenous Court in Edmonton, a key aspect of the strategy. Continuous meaningful engagement by our communities in the implementation stages of the strategy will be key to ensuring it is carried out in a manner that reduces the over representation of First Nations people in the justice system,” Treaty 6 Grand Chief George Arcand Jr. said.

“In the Blackfoot world-view and in our language, there is no word for ‘Crime’. Our word is ‘Mistake’. According to our Traditional Knowledge Keepers, a person is said to have made a mistake; a mistake can be corrected, and a person can be helped in a peaceful way to make his life right again. I fully endorse this initiative of the Provincial Court that will see the beginnings of the recognition of Indigenous holistic principles and practices exercised in the court,” Retired Provincial Court Judge Aakaota’si (Owns Many Horses), Eugene J. Creighton, KC of the Kainai/Blood Tribe said.

The Provincial Court of Alberta is the busiest court in Alberta, with all criminal matters beginning and over 97 per cent ending at the Provincial Court level. Every year, more than 500,000 people interact with the Provincial Court of Alberta in some way, either as a witness, as a lawyer, as a defendant, or as a plaintiff. For most Albertans, the Provincial Court is a primary point of contact with the justice system.

For more information, contact:

Olav Rokne
Senior Communication Advisor
Provincial Court of Alberta
olav.rokne@albertacourts.ca
780-203-3490