A new First Nations Justice Strategy has been endorsed by the BC First Nations Justice Council (BCFNJC) and the Province.
The new implementation plan outlines a path to reduce the number of First Nations who become involved with the criminal justice system and improve the experience of those who do. The strategy also includes increasing the number of First Nations people working within the justice system as well as supporting First Nations to restore their Indigenous justice systems and structures.
“It is an honour to be part of the first justice strategy for Indigenous peoples in British Columbia that is authored by Indigenous peoples themselves,” said David Eby, Attorney General. “That it took this long to happen is tragic. That it is finally happening should bring hope for a better future. I look forward to working with Indigenous peoples and leaders across the justice sector on this historic initiative.”
According to a press release issued by the BC Government, the first step will be to engage impacted government ministries on the development of a joint implementation plan.
“The First Nations Justice Strategy provides direction for the transformation of a system that has been pulverizing our people for generations,” said Doug White, chair, BCFNJC. “We have sought partnership with the Government of B.C. to reshape the criminal justice system and to begin to build the path to true Indigenous justice systems that are rooted in Indigenous self-determination and authority.”
The joint strategy is based on engagement with First Nations leadership, ministries, non-profits and police services that work within the existing criminal justice system.
“Under the strategy, BC Corrections will play a critical role in improving the experience of Indigenous people who become involved with the criminal justice system,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “So much of what’s happening in corrections is being led and shaped by Indigenous peoples. That’s what makes the joint strategy so promising: it’s First Nations led.”
Outlined in the press release are the following strategic plans:
* a two-path approach that transforms the existing criminal justice system and builds the path toward restoring First Nations laws and justice systems;
* establishing a network of 15 regional First Nations Justice Centres around the province;
* developing a systemic approach to implementing the Gladue decision;
* establishing a presumption of diversion to divert First Nations people from the court system, wherever possible;
* improving cultural competency in the justice system;
* establishing roles for Elders and Knowledge Keepers within the justice system; and
* increasing community justice programming in each First Nations community.
“This strategy creates the necessary space for recognition and implementation of Indigenous justice systems. First Nations will have the opportunity to restore and reclaim their legal systems and structures according to specific traditions, laws, knowledge, experiences and contexts. This will necessarily include the expansion of many community-based justice programs, which are vital to testing and advancing transformation of the justice system,” said Regional Chief Terry Teegee, BC Assembly of First Nations.
Over the coming months, the BC Government said Eby, alongside his staff and the BCFNJC, will continue working together to develop plans to implement the strategy.
With files to the BC Government.