The Yukon government is funding a pilot program that will formalize how Gladue reports are written in the territory for the first time.
The government announced Tuesday it is committing $530,000 over three years toward the pilot.
It will provide training and funding for Yukon-based writers to produce the reports for Indigenous offenders.
“This pilot project will be an organized system for providing consistent, high-quality information to the courts to ensure that the circumstances and the history of each Indigenous offender can be properly considered in every case,” Justice Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee said at a news conference.
A Gladue report is a specialized type of pre-sentencing and bail hearing report for Indigenous offenders that considers their background and unique circumstances.
Under the Canadian Criminal Code, courts must consider a number of factors when sentencing Indigenous offenders.
Those include the effects of colonialism, displacement and the residential school and child welfare systems, as well as family and community history.
The special sentencing approach is intended to alleviate the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in Canada’s justice system and recognize the importance of
“This is really about getting the best possible information about any individual offender before the court for consideration in determining what’s an appropriate
sentence and what the variety of that sentence might be, restorative options, rehabilitative options, those kinds of things,” McPhee explained.
Judges must consider reasonable sanctions other than imprisonment for all offenders.
And, in each case, it is up to a judge to determine whether Gladue factors justify a different sentence.
Peter Johnston, the Council of Yukon First Nations’ (CYFN’s) grand chief, said having a formalized process for Gladue reports is a win for everyone in the Yukon.
“Unfortunately, the justice system has always been looked upon as a right and wrong reality when it should be helping to support people to get out of the system,”
“We definitely want to build healthier communities and healthier families and support people that are in need,” he said.
“It’s about helping the individual in their own reality, what they need to reintegrate back into society.”
Johnston noted support for Gladue reports in the Yukon is “well overdue.”
The Supreme Court of Canada defined sentencing principles for Indigenous offenders in 1999 with the landmark R v. Gladue case.
More than 10 years later, it reaffirmed and expanded the principles in the 2012 Ipeelee case.
Up until recently, there has been no funding nor formal training for writing Gladue reports in the territory. A handful of writers have produced reports on an ad hoc
In 2015, the Yukon Gladue Research and Resource Identification Project found that the lack of support was inadequate and unsustainable, and recommended a pilot program.
“There wasn’t anything formal or any structure,” explained David Christie, the executive director of the Yukon Legal Services Society.
“People would go asking for a report, and there were thankfully some kind and qualified people who would be interested in doing those reports.”
One of those writers is Laura Hoversland, a senior analyst with the CYFN’s Justice Program. She told the Star she has written about 10 Gladue reports over the past year.
“Through the Gladue process, a lot of information is brought to the court’s attention that they otherwise would not have any idea,” Hoversland said.
“I think that the Gladue is an opportunity to identify what it is that this individual needs to work on and could actually make some better choices afterwards.”
Hoversland learned about the Gladue report writing process from Mark Stevens, a justice consultant with the Kwanlin Dün First Nation who has also authored reports over the years.
She explained it takes six to eight weeks to produce a report, which involves interviewing an offender, their family and community members.
Around 25 to 35 reports are needed annually in the Yukon.
Now that there is a pilot program, Hoversland said, they can build up a roster of qualified writers to establish a formalized process.
Many lawyers, the Yukon Crown and the legal services society have also been supportive of the Gladue pilot program.
That includes Jason Tarnow, a defence lawyer based in the Lower Mainland of B.C. who also practises in the Yukon.
“It’s really a fantastic thing,” he told the Star of the program.
“I think it’s really positive for the territory. I think it will help lower the numbers of First Nations people that are incarcerated.”
Tarnow noted that government funding for Gladue reports in the Yukon is “long overdue.
“I was astonished to learn there was zero funding for any such reports considering the population up in the Yukon and the high incarceration rates,” he said.
Statistics indicate that Indigenous people accounted for 70 per cent of adults in custody in the Yukon in 2015/2016.
Meanwhile, Indigenous people made up just over 23 per cent of the Yukon’s total population in 2016.
Tarnow noted Yukon writers were authoring Gladue reports “out of the goodness of their hearts,” while in B.C., there has been “some funding for some time.”
However, he said funding can also be an issue in the province.
While he has seen some great reports, he has also seen others that are limited.
Tarnow said Gladue reports are important for recognizing how intergenerational trauma plays a part in offenders’ criminality and can cause them to become
entrenched in the criminal justice system.
“You have to take into consideration the systemic discrimination that the government has put upon First Nation people for decades upon decades.
“Thank God the residential school systems are no more but the atrocities that were committed during that time, the ripple effects are still felt today,” he said.
The Yukon pilot program will be led by a Gladue management committee with representatives from the CYFN, the legal services society and the Public
Prosecution Services of Canada.
There will be continued evaluation of the program and adjustments will be made as required.
It complements the training of 11 writers that began in November 2017 through the CYFN.