Newspaper article The Canadian Press

New N.S. Policy Aims to Ensure Fair Treatment of Indigenous Peoples in Courts

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

New N.S. Policy Aims to Ensure Fair Treatment of Indigenous Peoples in Courts

Article excerpt

N.S. policy aims to ensure fairness for Indigenous

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HALIFAX - The Nova Scotia government has launched a new policy to ensure the fair treatment of Indigenous Peoples facing criminal prosecution, eight months after the province opened the country's first superior court on a First Nations reserve.

The Public Prosecution Service said Tuesday the new approach recognizes the special legal and constitutional status of Indigenous Peoples, along with their unique history, circumstances and culture.

The policy will influence all aspects of criminal cases involving Indigenous Peoples, including the decision to prosecute, restorative justice, arraignment, bail and sentencing.

"Indigenous people are unique in this country, and equality and fairness doesn't always mean treating everyone exactly the same," said Josie McKinney, a senior Crown attorney who is also Mi'kmaq and Maliseet.

The Supreme Court of Canada has recognized the unique history of Indigenous Peoples and their treatment by the criminal justice system in two landmark cases: R. v. Gladue and R. v. Ipeelee.

The Criminal Code also requires an Indigenous offender's unique circumstances to be considered in order to apply a fair sentence.

"It's incumbent upon us to consider those circumstances in order for Indigenous Peoples to have fair treatment," McKinney said.

Ingrid Brodie, a chief Crown attorney, said the new policy is a step-by-step guide for Crown lawyers to effectively address what is already enshrined in law for Indigenous Peoples.

"We drilled down beyond just strategic talking points into the practical how-to's at each stage of a prosecution," she said.

"The policy is intended to help a Crown attorney appreciate at each stage of a prosecution what they would practically do differently when handling a case involving an Indigenous defendant."

Brodie said the policy will help Nova Scotia more effectively decrease its rates of victimization, crime and incarceration among Indigenous Peoples by conducting "culturally competent prosecutions."

There are 33,845 people of Aboriginal identity in Nova Scotia -- about 2.7 per cent of the province's population, according to Statistics Canada's 2011 National Household Survey. …

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