The BC Prosecution Service (BCPS) says it aims to change how it deals with cases involving Indigenous people as victims, witnesses and as accused.
The service introduced new and revised policies it says is directed at the ‘unacceptable overrepresentation’ of Indigenous persons in the criminal justice system.
“Colonialism, displacement, and forced assimilation have contributed to their overrepresentation in all parts of the system. Ongoing bias, racism, and systemic discrimination only make the problem worse,” BCPS head and Assistant Deputy Attorney General Peter Juk said in a statement.
“These facts must inform every consideration, decision, or action we take in relation to Indigenous persons.”
The new Indigenous Justice Framework identifies key initiatives and activities the BCPS will take to change the status quo.
One of the new policies calls for restraint by prosecutors in bail matters, with attention focused on circumstances of the Indigenous persons accused.
Another relates to probation as Crown Counsel must consider systemic or background factors that may have led to bringing the offender before the court.
The Charge Assessment Guidelines policy has been revised to include specific provisions that address the cultural and historical circumstances of Indigenous persons, as accused and as victims.
Juk says more changes will be considered in the coming months on policies and practices.
Crown Counsel policies revised
Other revisions were made to the Crown Counsel Policy Manual, which includes the Sexual Transmission, or Realistic Possibility of Transmission of HIV policy to reflect developments in medical and scientific finding on how HIV can be spread.
Clarifying guidance related to bail is included in a revision of the Intimate Partner Violence policy, and clearer guidelines on sharing prosecutorial information with the public under the Information Requests from Third Parties policy.
The BCPS says a number of policies have also been updated to remove all gendered language from the manual.