AFN National Chief Welcomes Supreme Court’s Decision on First Nations Sentencing Principles
( Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo today elcomed the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision on Ipeelee, which upholds the 1998 Gladue decision regarding entencing of Aboriginal people.
“We commend the Supreme Court of Canada for this decision, one which instructs judges to craft ‘fair and balanced sentences’ as a central part of our justice system,” National Chief Atleo said. “The decision recognizes the deep trauma still experienced by our peoples through decades of policies and practices such as residential schools that attacked our languages, cultures and families. This ruling upholds the principles of fairness and proportionality in sentencing.”
The Supreme Court decision on Ipeelee released today states that judges must consider “such matters as the history of colonialism, displacement, and residential schools and how that history continues to translate into lower educational attainment, lower incomes, higher unemployment, higher rates of substance abuse and suicide, and of course higher levels of incarceration for Aboriginal peoples.”
The National Chief said: “First Nations are the youngest and fastest growing population in Canada, the future of this country, yet right now they are more likely to go to jail than graduate from high school. This situation requires a national commitment to reconciliation including a more fair and balanced approach to Aboriginal people in the justice system..”
The 1998 Gladue decision, the subject of today’s ruling, called on judges to consider creative and sensitive approaches to sentencing, other than imprisonment, that will help rehabilitate Aboriginal offenders and reduce the vast over-representation of Aboriginal people in prison. Gladue provided the courts with latitude to inquire into the causes of First Nation over-representation and provide remedies to this problem. The Supreme Court of Canada regrettably notes that Aboriginal over-representation in the criminal justice system has worsened since the Gladue decision.
National Chief Atleo re-iterated the importance of this ruling especially in the context of the recent passage of Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Act.
“The sentencing regime in Bill C-10 means that a larger number of First Nations people may well find themselves in mandatory custody for significant periods of time, regardless of their potential for treatment or rehabilitation,” National Chief Atleo stated. “We have written the Minister of Justice and appeared before the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs to highlight Bill C-10’s impacts on First Nations people and requested that alternatives to imprisonment be considered. We remain hopeful that today’s Supreme Court decision will be fully applied to First Nation offenders in all criminal matters and will advocate strongly that the decision by Canada’s highest court will be respected.”
The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @NCAtleo, @AFN_Comms, @AFN_Updates.