Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Aboriginal sentencing rules ignored due to lack of funding, interest

Thirteen years after the Supreme Court of Canada issued a demand for information that would enable trial judges to pass more culturally sensitive sentences for aboriginal defendants, its edict has been largely ignored in much of the country.

In most regions, a lack of funding or a lack of interest has meant that detailed reports delving into the background of offenders are simply not prepared.

Yet, these documents – named Gladue reports after the defendant in the 1999 Supreme Court’s decision from which they evolved – are a vital aid to judges considering the impact on a defendant of the historical mistreatment of aboriginal communities. At the core of the Gladue decision was a deep concern with the over-representation of aboriginal people in jail. When judges are deprived of rich, case-specific information, aboriginal offenders are much more likely to be thrown in jail at a disproportionate rate.

“The reports are indispensable,” said Chief Justice Glenn Joyal of the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench. “If you don’t get the best information with respect to the individual background and sentencing options, the judge is not in a position to come to the fit and proper sentence that Gladue requires.”

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