The Treaty #3 Community Justice Project has undergone a number of changes to staffing and structure over the past two years. Project Coordinator Arthur Huminuk is eager to move the project to the next level where an increased number of clients are referred to the project and diverted from the mainstream criminal justice system. An aggressive strategy to increase the public’s awareness of the project is in the works, with efforts underway holding information sessions with the Treaty Three Police Service and the Crown Attorneys to ensure clients referrals happen.
The centralized structure enables the Grassy Narrows(Arlene Wesley), Lac Seul(Shera Wesley), Onigaming(David Kelly), and Naicatchewenin(Gary Smith) First Nations adult and youth clients to be referred to the T3CJ Project, as pre-charge referrals by police or post-charge referrals by Crown (or court workers, defense lawyers, or other), to the Project Coordinator or Case Manager(Dean Councillor). The Project Coordinator or Case Manager then assesses whether the case can be dealt with by the T3CJ Project and, if yes, then contacts the appropriate Community Justice Worker for a community-based approach to setting up a circle hearing.
The Youth Reintegration Worker Project, funded by the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services, is officially underway. The communities of Wabaseemoong (Linda Hunter), Grassy Narrows (Arlene Wesley), and Lac Seul (Shera Wesley) First Nations each have their own Youth Reintegration Worker who will provide support and mentorship to youth on probation.
The Project Coordinator and Case Manager will oversee and provide direct community support to both the Treaty #3 Community Justice Project and the Youth Reintegration Project and its workers in effort to streamline the operations of the two initiatives.
On February 12, 2009, Ogichidaakwe Kelly met with Ontario Attorney General Chris Bentley to establish a relationship to address justice issues of mutual concern. The jury selection issue was one area that the two leaders agreed requires immediate rectification. Grand Council Treaty #3 proposed to partner with the Ministry to host community legal education sessions to seek names of interested Treaty #3 members who wish to participate as potential candidates for jury selection in the courts. Benefits include increasing the Treaty #3 members’ involvement and understanding of the mainstream justice system.
For background to the issue, section 6(8) of the Juries Act sets out that First Nations people are ensured that juries will be representative of their community. In 2000, the Department of Indian Affairs stopped providing the Kenora Court Services with the band member lists, which resulted with a drastic reduction of potential First Nation candidates being placed on the jury selection lists. While the Juries Act was designed to ensure all Canadians are protected by the right to be judged by an impartial jury and uphold the constitutional right for an individual to be judged by one’s peers, this is not happening for First Nations people in the Kenora area.
In the Kenora area, over 85% of the men in custody and 95-100% of the women and youth in custody are of First Nation ancestry. How many cases have resulted with trials being held with no First Nations persons hearings the case as jurors? There is the possibility that many or most of the cases had no First Nation jurors and the individual was tried without a sensitive understanding to the circumstances surrounding the incident and the accused, resulting with a finding of guilty and possibly harsher sentences than were necessary.
The Ogichidaakwe reminded Attorney General Bentley that Grand Council Treaty #3 needs to be informed and involved with such serious issues regarding the justice system is negatively impacting the Treaty #3 members. Since the February 12th meeting, the Minister has promised the Ogichidaakwe that his office will work with GCT#3 to resolve the jury roll issue.
Because of the Ogichidaakwe’s work with the Minister, in 2010 funding and an agreement for Jury Forums was agreed upon. Grand Council Treaty #3 Projects Coordinator and representatives from the Ministry of the Attorney Generals Court Services office will be presenting Jury Forums in all communities of CGCT#3.
Wabaseemoong Nation had their solvent band by-law successfully prosecuted in the Kenora court, but was only able to do so by hiring its own legal counsel to prosecute the case.
Ogichidaakwe Kelly and Treaty Three Police Service Chief of Police Conrad DeLarond have met to determine how they can work together to address the First Nation band by-laws being inconsistently enforced in the courts. Ogichidaakwe spoke to the band by-law issue with Ontario Attorney General Bentley. Since the meeting, a letter has been forwarded to Minister Bentley reminding that the by-law issue is a priority issue and needs resolution. It is expected Minister Bentley and Ogichidaakwe Kelly will need to jointly approach the federal Department of Justice and Department of Indian Affairs to explore the Memorandum of Understanding option with INAC that enables the federal Department of Justice to prosecute the First Nation by-laws.
The Ogichidaakwe hopes to seek resources for Grand Council Treaty #3 and the Treaty Three Police Service to work with the Treaty #3 First Nations to develop common community band by-laws to apply throughout Treaty #3 nation. While there will be specific community needs that will require First Nations to have its individual band by-laws, it is likely there are enough common community issues that can be addressed through common by-laws. Having common by-laws will facilitate police and court enforcement and will increase the nation’s capacity to collectively improve the communities social conditions.
Resolution passed at the October 2008 assembly supporting a Treaty #3 Justice Resource Centre to be established will require committed long-term funding to sustain it. At the current time, there are two long-term justice initiatives (Treaty #3 Community Justice Project and Youth Reintegration Worker Project) with funding levels that are insufficient to sustain a Resource Centre. While these two long-term initiatives have the potential to expand services to additional Treaty #3 First Nations and increase funding levels, the GCT#3 Justice Department will continue to actively seek commitments for additional justice-related initiatives to increase the viability for a Justice Resource Centre to be established.
Minister of the Attorney Generals Office
Ministry of Children and Youth Services
Treaty Three Police
Aboriginal Policing Services
Ontario Provincial Police
Legal Aid Ontario
Canadian Human Rights Commission
Youth Criminal Justice Act
Canada’s Justice System
Child and Family Services Act