Truth and Reconciliation — Legal Issues

By Rita Button

To live together freely and honestly, we must establish a culture based on Truth and Reconciliation. Respect for and appreciation of differences lead to understanding and inclusion. In a society that has been broken by historical unjust practices, certain redresses must occur. While apologies recognize previous wrongs and mistreatments, they also offer a way forward by repairing what has been broken and working toward a society whose fabric is unique, sometimes flawed, but always open to helping the healing occur.

The Truth and Reconciliation Report, June 2, 2015, called on various organizations and governments to act as a way of beginning a world in which all are accepted as a valued part of the tapestry.

The Committee has identified certain practices in the law enforcement area that would enhance the lives of Aboriginal people.

Have the RCMP investigate crimes in which the government has a vested interest for a particular outcome to occur.

Avoid using “limitation defences” (p.35) as a way to get around historical abuse brought by Aboriginal people.

Federation of Law Societies and Law Schools should include the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other legal documents in Aboriginal rights and treaties.

Skill based training in “intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights and anti-racism” (p.36) is required.

Create a plan to eliminate the “overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in custody” (p.38); monitor, evaluate and report on progress.

Use realistic alternatives to imprisonment for Aboriginal offenders which connect to the reason for the offences.

Amend the criminal code to allow for leeway in mandatory minimum sentences and restrictions on the use of conditional sentences.

Address and prevent Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder by creating programs in collaboration with Aboriginal people.

Reform the criminal justice system to address the needs of offenders who have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. This includes increased resources to ensure FASD is properly diagnosed; that community supports are available, “enacting statutory exemptions from mandatory minimum”(p.40) imprisonment sentences, providing community and correctional resources to allow FASD people to live in the community, and measure effectiveness through evaluative systems.

Use Aboriginal ways of healing such as healing lodges, programming in halfway houses, parole services; be aware of issues such as actions being a result of having been sexually abused.

Collect and publish data on the criminal victimization of Aboriginal people with a view to creating collaborative healing programs for Aboriginal people.

Appoint a public inquiry into the missing and murdered Aboriginal girls and women, including links to the intergenerational legacy of residential schools.

Recognize and implement Aboriginal justice systems in a manner consistent with the Treaty and Aboriginal rights of Aboriginal peoples, The Constitution Act, 1982, and the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as endorsed by Canada in November 2012.” (p.45)

All information and quotations are taken from Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action, University of Manitoba, 2015

Letters to the Editor

Poem: Rock Lichen