Mi’kmaq Confederacy Pleased With Gladue Appeal Decision

by Tammy MacDonald

For Immediate Release

Charlottetown, PEI — 19 February 2019

Mi’kmaq Confederacy Pleased With Gladue Appeal Decision

A Supreme Court of PEI Appeal decision on Friday is being applauded by the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI.  The Appeal Court found that Chief Provincial Judge Nancy Orr erred in refusing to accept the systemic factors that would reduce the culpability of the offender, Mr. McInnis.  In her sentencing, Judge Orr rejected a joint recommendation of the crown and defence lawyers for a two-year probation sentence. 

In the 1999 Gladue decision, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized the social, economic, and historical factors impacting Aboriginal Peoples and the related over-representation of Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system.  In the decision, the Court found that sentencing courts must take these considerations into account when the liberty of an Aboriginal offender is at stake.  A “Gladue Report”, detailing these factors, was submitted by the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI Indigenous Justice Program on behalf of Mr. MacInnes prior to sentencing. 

The Appeal Court decision confirmed that the law is clear and that sentencing judges must pay particular attention to the circumstances of Aboriginal offenders and found that the sentencing judge “did not consider the impact of broad historical events and the systemic factors that played a part in the appellant’s make-up.”

“This is an important decision for Aboriginal people in PEI, and across the country.” Said Lori St. Onge, Indigenous Justice Director at the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI.  “It upholds the principles set out by the Supreme Court of Canada in Gladue and supports the appropriate focus on restorative justice for Aboriginal offenders.”

In reaction to the decision Chief Matilda Ramjattan stated: “Our people are grossly overrepresented in our prisons.  The impacts of colonization and the Indian Act cannot be denied – dislocation from our land, segregating us to reserves, poor economic and educational opportunities, outlawing our cultures and traditions and removing our children from their families and communities.  The Supreme Court of Canada recognized this in the Gladue decision and I am very pleased to see the message from our PEI Appeal Court to the Provincial Court that this is settled law.”

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For more information: Tammy MacDonald, 902-626-2882, communications@mcpei.ca

Visit our website at http://www.mcpei.ca/

Background

The Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI Indigenous Justice Program works to create an environment that allows Aboriginal people to self-administer justice by building a traditional justice system based on holistic community values.  Visit www.mcpei.ca for more information.

In 1996, the federal government added a new section to the Criminal Code, which reads: “All available sanctions other than imprisonment that are reasonable in the circumstances should be considered for all offenders, with particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal offenders.” – Criminal Code s.718.2(e).

In 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada interpreted this section in R v. Gladue and called the overrepresentation of Aboriginal peoples in prison “a crisis.” The Court specifically referred to discrimination faced by Aboriginal people in the justice system as well as other systemic factors that contribute to over representation. The Supreme Court found that the new sentencing law provides judges the opportunity to address the issue of Aboriginal over representation in prison by focusing on more restorative options when sentencing Aboriginal people.

Aboriginal people in Canada represent over 25% of custodial admissions to provincial and federal prisons but only 4% of the Canadian population.

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