Justice Department

Historically, First Nations have been victims of the Canadian justice system having suffered from the systemic racism compounded in the ‘delivery of justice’. The Justice Department was established in response to the growing need for representation and advocacy on issues relating to justice for First Nations in Ontario.

Historically, First Nations have been victims of the Canadian justice system having suffered from the systemic racism compounded in the ‘delivery of justice’. This has been demonstrated through systemic issues such as racial profiling by enforcement agencies, over representation of First Nation men, women and youth in the correctional facilities, and support programs not culturally competent. In addition, Canada’s judicial legislation and policies have fallen short sighted of addressing the root causes of crime and have failed to institute adequate measures that would support prevention methods for First Nation citizens.

The following information indicates the current approach undertaken by First Nations in Ontario to address the issues identified above.

The Justice Department was established in response to the growing need for representation and advocacy on issues relating to justice for First Nations in Ontario. Rooted historically in Resolution 95/25 – Support for Justice Development Worker Proposal that was passed at the 21st All Ontario Chiefs Conference in June, 1995, the resolution provided for the hiring of justice development workers to serve as both ‘a resource and a facilitator for community justice development.’ The product of demands from First Nation citizens for a more culturally relevant and effective justice system, and a growing awareness of pre-existing forms of First Nation legal systems, the Chiefs in Assembly resolved themselves to:

  • Establish regional justice councils or justice committees that would oversee the development of the community justice agenda;
  • Assess the justice needs of individual communities;
  • Articulate the community values that any system of First Nation justice developed should uphold;
  • Identify the most promising justice programs and models for community application and;
  • Develop justice pilot projects.

By 2005 there had emerged within the Chiefs of Ontario a Justice and Correctional Steering Committee that had drafted a Terms of Reference for its operation and identified its role as one that would create and/or facilitate dialogue, policy development, and strategies related to justice. After considering the terms, leadership then adopted Resolution 05/08 – Justice and Correctional Steering Committee –Terms of Reference, approving both the establishment of the Steering Committee, and its mandate. This served to further strengthen then promising efforts to fully integrate a Justice Policy area within the Chiefs of Ontario, and provides the basis for the work that continues on today.

Resolutions structuring COO work:

  • Mandates to participate
    • Resolution 97/04 Support for Dudley George Public Inquiry carried at the Ontario Chiefs’ Special Assembly, October 14-16, 1997, in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
    • Resolution 04/77 Ipperwash Inquiry – Part Two carried at the Special Chiefs Assembly, November 9-11, 2004 in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
    • Resolution 08/05 Ipperwash Inquiry Final Report – Implementation carried at the Special Chiefs Assembly, February 7, 2008 in Fort William First Nation Traditional Territory.o Mandate to the Political Confederacy (PC)
    • Resolution 08/17 Ipperwash Inquiry Priorities and Action Committee carried at the 34th All Ontario Chiefs Conference, June 3-5, 2008 at Red Rock Indian Band.
  • Mandate to work on priorities and how to work on them
    • Resolution 08/22 Ipperwash Inquiry – New Relationship Fund carried at the 34th All Ontario Chiefs Conference, June 3-4, 2008 at Red Rock Indian Band.
    • Resolution 08/46 Treaties Implementation carried at the 34th All Ontario Chiefs Conference, June 3-4, 2008 at Red Rock Indian Band.
    • Resolution 08/65 Creation of a Chiefs Advisory and Technical Committees in the Area of the Treaty Commission and Reconciliation Fund carried at the Special Chiefs Assembly, November 18-20, 2008, Toronto Ontario.
    • Resolution 08/76 Remembering Dudley George and the People of Aazhoodena, carried at the Special Chiefs Assembly, November 18-20, 2008, Toronto Ontario.
    • Resolution 08/80 Inclusion of Language in Key Activities carried at the Special Chiefs Assembly, November 18-20, 2008, Toronto Ontario.
  • More recent political directives
    • Resolution 09/09 Establishment of a Treaty Commission of Ontario carried at the 35th All Ontario Chiefs Conference, July 7-9, 2009, at Batchewana First Nation.
    • Resolution 10/11 Resource Benefits/Revenue Sharing carried at the Special Chiefs Assembly, November 23-25, 2010, Toronto, Ontario.
    • Resolution 10/12 An Approach to Treaties Within Ontario carried at the Special Chiefs Assembly, November 23-25, 2010, Toronto, Ontario.
    • Resolution 11/04 Treaties – Unifying Our Approach carried at the Chiefs Special Assembly, April 12-14, 2001, Toronto, Ontario.
    • Resolution 11/05 Creating a Vision for First Nation Policing Services carried at the Special Chiefs Assembly, April 12-14, 2011, Toronto, Ontario.
    • Resolution 11/08 Resource Revenue and Benefit Sharing carried at the Special Chiefs Assembly, April 12-14, 2011, Toronto, Ontario.

Current Initiatives

Aside from ongoing work on our two current portfolios, our most recent mandate derives from the directives enclosed in Resolution 10/13 – Establishment of a Justice & Corrections Leadership Roundtable, carried at the Special Chiefs Assembly in November, 2010. After having outlined some of the many challenges facing First Nation peoples and communities the Chiefs in Assembly directed the Chiefs of Ontario to work towards the establishment of an ad hoc political roundtable with the Political Confederacy and Ministers from the Ministry of the Attorney General, Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, and the Ministry of Children and Youth Service. Areas to be addressed included: First Nation representation in adult correctional systems in the north; increasing support for the prevention of violence against women; expanding the Healing Lodge concept; services for First Nation youth in conflict with the law; a strategy to address the underlying issues with First nation youth gangs; and other issues deemed to be a priority by First Nation leadership.

This sector embodies a number of topics and activities ranging from the over-representation of First Nations in the Canadian justice system, the review of legislative initiatives, to the study of alternative approaches to justice and healing. The principle objective of our work is to provide First Nations with a voice in regards to the correctional issues that affect them.

With that in mind, the Chiefs of Ontario has engaged in direct dialogue with the government of Ontario through the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services (MCSCS) and the Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG). The rationale for doing so is to i) increase our capacity to participate in correctional/justice policy issues; ii) ensure our participation in meetings and policy development; iii) to advance First Nation inherent and Treaty rights pertaining to justice and corrections; and iv) to help shape the parameters and outcome of the Ontario Aboriginal Justice Strategy.

Ultimately, through collaboration with the relevant governmental departments and agencies the aim is to reverse the overrepresentation of First Nations in the Canadian justice system while making it more flexible for First Nation communities to access funds, develop programs, and provide services for First Nation citizens.

As part of its evolving mandate, the Justice and Correctional Policy area at the Chiefs of Ontario is to examine existing government legislation and further, to advocate on behalf of First Nations interests. Some of what we cover includes issues pertaining to:

  • Enhancing First Nation Police Services
  • Police relations
  • Sentencing
  • Diversion programs
  • Gladue provisions
  • Culturally appropriate programs in correctional facilities
  • Probation
  • Reintegration programs
  • Lifestyle choices

In 2005, the province of Ontario released its Aboriginal policy document “A New Approach to Aboriginal Affairs” (attached). Its stated intent was to ‘chart a new course’ by providing the basis for a “constructive, co-operative relationship with the Aboriginal peoples of Ontario…that is sustained by mutual respect and that leads to improved opportunities and a better future for Aboriginal children and youth.” Included as part of the new approach was a series of provincially designated ‘new approach initiatives,’ of which the Aboriginal Justice Strategy was but one of eight.

According to the Strategy, the province of Ontario committed to addressing the concerns of First Nation leaders regarding the specialized justice needs of their communities, “particularly in the areas of prevention, intervention, reintegration, and relapse prevention.” Throughout, emphasis was applied within the strategy on prevention for children and youth, alongside efforts at promoting community safety. Ultimately, the initiative was an opportunity for the Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG), in conjunction with First Nation communities, organizations, and the relevant government ministers, to design and implement ‘an integrated policy framework related to Aboriginal justice.’

The inaugural meeting of the OAJS was held in April 2005 wherein First Nation representatives formed an Aboriginal Caucus to discuss how they would proceed in the development of the Strategy. In October 2005 a ‘terms of reference’ was created and a work plan devised for provincial consideration. It consisted of a proposal to move forward using a two-pronged approach that considered both i) aboriginal models of justice; and ii) the administration of the Canadian justice system. Pursuant to this, the Political Confederacy directed the Chiefs of Ontario on May 30, 2006 to host a conference on Indigenous Justice in order to delve deeper into the themes mentioned above This conference will be taking place once funding has been secured.

In Ontario, First Nations leadership recognized that First Nations women are the most at risk group in Canada for issues related to violence. Through Resolution 10/31 – Government of Canada to Re-Establish its Support for Sisters in Spirit, which was adopted at the Special Chiefs Assembly in November, 2010, leadership made eliminating violence against women a top priority.

Currently, the Chiefs of Ontario is participating (as an observer) on the Joint Working Group on Violence Against Aboriginal Women to collect further information and determine the possible role of the Chiefs of Ontario. The Working Group was formed by the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and the Ontario Women’s Directorate in response to the Strategic Framework to End Violence against Aboriginal Women produced in 2009 by the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres (OFIFC) and the Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONAW). In January 2011, the Ontario Regional Chief Toulouse made a presentation to the federal Standing Committee on Violence Against Aboriginal Women, and the Chiefs of Ontario has participated (as an observer) in the Aboriginal consultation session on Sexual Violence Against Aboriginal Women.

As mandated by Resolution 10/31, a series of discussion papers are currently being drafted by Evelyn Baxter; these papers will provide a broad overview of the issues relating to violence and highlight the rising rates of violence perpetrated within First Nation communities of Ontario.

Discussion Papers will be completed on the following:

  • Adult Correctional Systems
  • Stopping Violence Against Aboriginal Women
  • Addressing Issues with Youth Gangs
  • Gaps in the Adminstration of Justice

On September 6th, 1995 Anthony “Dudley” George, an unarmed man was shoot by the Ontario Provincial Police and died. He and other First Nation men, women and children had been occupying their ancestor territory which had been appropriated by the federal government for military purposes. The land which was occupied had been transferred by the federal government to the provincial government and was used as a provincial park. This was done after the federal government had promised the people of Kettle and Stony Point it would return the land it had appropriated.

After the shooting death of his brother Dudley, Sam George begin his quest for justice. For nearly ten years after this brother death, Sam George continues to advocate for justice for the wrongful death of this bother. Sam’s did not stop these tireless efforts which ultimately resulted in a public inquiry that examined the events that lead to “Dudley’s” death and recommend steps to ensure this never happens again. Both Dudley and Sam will forever be remembers as protectors of our ancestral lands and seekers of justice for First Nation peoples.

The Current Situation

Background: “Today, the 133 First Nation communities are located within the artificial boundaries of the Province of Ontario; within these boundaries also exists a complex interrelationship of treaty obligations, federal-provincial division of powers, statutory regimes, inherent jurisdiction, and constitutionally protected Aboriginal and Treaty rights; and a relationship where much reconciling must take place if peaceful coexistence is to be achieved.” (source: Chiefs of Ontario final submission to the Ipperwash Inquiry, Part 1 –July 2006)

The Report of the Ipperwash Inquiry recommended that provincial and First Nation governments should establish a permanent, independent, and impartial agency called the Treaty Commission of Ontario (TCO) to facilitate and over see the settling of land and treaty claims in Ontario. In light of this, the Chiefs in Assembly passed Resolution 08/65 – Creation of Chiefs Advisory and Technical Committees in the Area of the Treaty Commission and Reconciliation Fund) directing the Political Confederacy to create a Chiefs Advisory Committee (CAC) and a Technical Committee whose mandate would be to complete work necessary for the establishment of a Treaty Commission of Ontario. As Resolution 09/09 – Establishment of a Treaty Commission of Ontario further detailed, this included having the CAC scope out all aspects associated with the Commission, including its potential structure, mandate, and operation.

As the leadership made clear in Resolution 11/04 – Treaties –Unifying Our Approach, the Framework on a Treaty Commission in Ontario is an evolving document; intended to guide and assist the First Nations Ipperwash Task Force as its negotiates the form the Commission will take. To date, the Task Force has completed a TCO Interim Initiative to carry out the engagement process and assist First Nations to determine authority and powers of a TCO, based on Treaty regions.

Land Rights
& Interests

Background: Resolution 05/45- Protocol for Consultation and Accommodation directed the Chiefs of Ontario to work on a draft consultation and accommodation protocol based on the decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada, Haida and Taku River in consultation with the First Nation PTO’s, Grand Councils, and the Independent First Nations. Resolution 06/44- Protocol for Consultation and Accommodation–Phase II created the Consultation and Accommodation Technical-Legal Committee to undertake the development of the protocol in accordance with a work plan, coordinated by the Chiefs of Ontario.

Resolution 08/11- First Nations Resource Revenue Sharing, adopted at the 34th All Ontario Chiefs Conference declared the negotiation of a regional resource revenue sharing arrangement with the current government be treated as a leading priority of the Ontario Regional Chief and the Political Confederacy; authorizing the appointment of a Task Force for this purpose.

First Nations Jurisdiction

Background: The Ipperwash Inquiry stated that “First Nations police services have a [questionable] existence in law. Although the federal Indian Act provides that a band council may establish a police commission, it does not set out a framework of governance, funding, police standards, and appointment and powers of officers. Nor does the Ontario Policing Act apply to First Nations policing services, beyond providing for the appointment and powers of constables.” In light of this, the report recommended that “federal, provincial and First Nation governments should commit to developing a secure legislative basis for First Nation Police Services” which recognizes them as essential services as opposed to enhanced services, which they are currently considered.

The objective here is to facilitate exploratory discussions regarding First Nations governments’ and provincial jurisdiction with an eye toward clarifying patterns of overlap and conflict stemming from competing claims to governing authority. The topic of jurisdiction has not been deemed a priority by the government of Ontario; however it remains a priority for First Nations. Additionally, the Premiere of Ontario and the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs have made a political commitment to commence discussions on jurisdiction after the provincial election in October 2011.

To date all work on this issue has been internal since 2009. A recommendation was drafted for approval by the Political Confederacy that would place emphasis on gathering information and research so as to put Chiefs in the best possible position to decide how best to work on First Nations jurisdiction and what role Ontario should have. A paper has recently been commissioned to aid in this discussion and is awaiting comment while work will soon proceed on the development of a legal paper analyzing some of the issues to be resolved. As of right now this table is awaiting further instructions from the JITT and IIPAC.

Building Capacity

The Ipperwash Inquiry recommendations called for the government of Ontario to “establish and fund an Ontario Aboriginal Reconciliation Fund, modeled on the First Nation New Relationship Trust fund in British Columbia. Its purpose would be to improve the capacity of First Nations…to participate in many land claims, treaty, or aboriginal policy and consultation processes underway in the province.” Instead, on May 15, 2008, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Michael Bryant announced the New Relationship Fund, which was unilaterally developed by the Ontario government.

The New Relationship Fund is a government-based program inconsistent with what the Ipperwash recommendation and the direction of the Chiefs in Assembly as mandated by Resolution 08/05 – Ipperwash Inquiry Final Report –Implementation. As such, the Political Confederacy and First Nation Ipperwash Task Force are not supportive or participating with the further development of the New Relationship Fund in light of its inconsistency with both the intent and purpose of the recommended Reconciliation Fund. Resolution 08/22 – Ipperwash Inquiry – New Relationship Fund speaks to these concerns and provides further direction.

The Final Report of the Ipperwash Inquiry provided recommendations that focused on greater First Nation participation in policies that deal with heritage, burial and sacred sites. Since then a working group has been established with representatives from First Nations and Ontario ministries including Tourism and Culture, Small Business and Consumer Relations, Municipal Affairs and Housing, and Aboriginal Affairs. The working group is set to develop and implement a work plan to address the related recommendations in the Report of the Ipperwash Inquiry dealing with:

  • Clarifying existing practices, requirements, and policies for First Nations, First Nation organizations, and the public
  • Developing appropriate policies and legislative and/or regulatory amendments
  • Establishing methods for ongoing communication.

The First Nations Ipperwash Task Force, Ministry of Culture and Tourism and Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs met in May 2011 to develop a work plan that puts in place implementation activities for the recommendations of the Report of the Ipperwash Inquiry.

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(416) 597-1266
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