Law enforcement, judiciary and corrections all have a role to play in improving justice system outcomes for First Nations in BC.
Policing is most often the first aspect of a person’s interaction with the justice system. In the First Nations context, police forces have historically played a role in imposing colonialism, including forcible land dispossession, enforcement of the residential school system, and enforcing policies and outcomes in relation to First Nations children, which perpetuate conflict and apprehension. A direct by-product of these realities is that often when First Nations people require assistance, including protection by the police, they will not reach out for that help, thus allowing the perpetuation of other harms. Read more here
For millenia, First Nations had their own systems for the administration of justice, including legal orders and criminal justice institutions. Among the most damaging of colonial patterns has been efforts to marginalize and dismantle these functions. Concurrently, a common law justice system has been imposed that has long reflected and struggled with bias against Indigenous peoples. The end result is a contemporary reality where Indigenous peoples in British Columbia, and across Canada, are disproportionately and negatively impacted by the justice system, often with devastating consequences for individuals, families, communities, Nations, and society at large. Read more here
Indigenous peoples are making up a growing proportion of those engaged in correctional services or who are incarcerated. In 2016/2017, Aboriginal adults accounted for 28% of admissions to provincial/territorial correctional services and 27% for federal correctional services, while representing 4.1% of the Canadian adult population. This is an increase from 21% and 19% respectively, one decade ago. Read more here
Across all sectors of the justice system, the BC First Nations Justice Strategy envisions a future in which:
- First Nations people trust and believe in a justice system that is fair and culturally-safe.
- First Nations laws and legal traditions are restored and First Nations people exercise authority in the administration of justice for the safety and security of their citizens and communities.
- Less emphasis is placed upon the “punishing” of offenders and more attention is paid to prevention, diversion, rehabilitation, and community safety.
- Indigenous people have access to high-quality legal and social support services.
- Knowledge keeper’s roles are recognized, restored and privileged.
- All people with authority in the justice system understand and share ownership of the destructive effects of colonialism when administering justice.
Fully implemented, the Strategy will reduce the number of First Nations people who become involved with the criminal justice system, improve the experience of those who do, increase the number of First Nations people working within the justice system and support First Nations to restore their justice systems and structures.
This wide-ranging strategy, consisting of 42 lines of action, requires deep involvement across a number of sectors associated with the justice and legal system including law enforcement (policing), judiciary (the processes and institutions that administer justice) and corrections (incarcerated populations, and those monitored in the community).