Justice (25-42): Current Problems

Federal and Provincial Justice Inquiries

February 26, 2021


Aboriginal Justice Inquiry

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) – On Aboriginal Justice Awareness Day, AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas called out both the federal and provincial governments on their failure to fully implement the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry (AJI). The 1987 trial and outcome of the kidnapping and murder of Helen Betty Osborne led to widespread calls for a public inquiry. In 1988, Winnipeg Police Services shot JJ Harper to death. This led to the Island Lake Tribal Council initiating a First Nation commemorative “JJ Harper Day,” which has since been renamed Aboriginal Justice Awareness Day. These two main events led to the province of Manitoba creating the Public Inquiry into the Administration of Justice and Aboriginal Peoples, otherwise referred to as the AJI. Co-chaired by Associate Chief Judge Murray Sinclair and Associate Chief Justice Alvin Hamilton, the AJI made 296 recommendations. The recommendations were mostly unaddressed during most of the 90s until 1999, until work began on the AJI-Child Welfare Initiative. Although provincial governments have made efforts to implement the AJI, particularly its child welfare recommendations, the promise of the AJI for First Nations remains largely unfulfilled to this day.

AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas stated:

For thirty years, history shows a near non-existent meaningful attempt to fully implement the AJI by successive provincial and federal governments…First Nations continue to be disproportionately arrested, incarcerated and continue to suffer more severe outcomes due to involvement with the provincial justice system. Sadly, three years ago this month, justice was denied for Tina Fontaine, her family, and First Nation by Manitoba’s justice system. This month, Headingley Correctional Institute staff killed William Ahmo, the Independent Investigations Unit exonerated the Winnipeg Police Services shooting of Eishia Hudson. In one week alone, the AMC First Nations Family Advocate’s Office received reports of four missing First Nations women.

December 14, 2021

AB, BC, Fed. Govt., MB, NB, NL, NS, NT, NU, ON, PE, QC, SK, YT

Call for a Miscarriage of Justice Commission

APTN – Women and people of colour “urgently” need a commission to review claims of wrongful conviction, say two retired judges. Harry LaForme, the first Indigenous lawyer on an appellate court in Canada, and Juanita Westmoreland-Traoré, the first Black judge in Quebec, were tasked with helping formulate a new Criminal Case Review Commission for Justice Canada.

They delivered their report and 51 recommendations to federal Justice Minister David Lametti on Dec. 9.
“The current system has failed to provide remedies for women, Indigenous or Black people in the same proportion as they are represented in Canada’s prisons,” said their executive summary. “We believe that the new commission must be proactive and reach out to potential applicants, including Indigenous people, Black people, women and others who may have reasons to distrust a criminal justice system that had convicted them and denied their appeals.”

They say they were told it was crucial the new body – they suggested be called A Miscarriages of Justice Commission – be independent of government and work proactively to raise awareness of its mission. “Our focus wants to be on what so far has not been in focus, which is people of colour who don’t even know that these kinds of reviews or examinations of their conviction even exist,” LaForme said in an interview Monday. As of now, people must apply to the justice minister to consider wrongful convictions. In the past 20 years, only 20 of those applications have been sent back to the court for new trials or appeal hearings.

“There’s basically one a year. That’s totally unacceptable,” said LaForme, who is Anishinabe and a member of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation in southern Ontario. “Out of those 20, one was Indigenous and one was Black – and they were men.” That number “does not reflect the population at risk for wrongful convictions as measured by the overrepresentation of Indigenous and Black people in Canada’s prisons,” the executive summary said. “We believe that a new proactive and systemic approach is urgently needed.”

Justice Canada has said the number of Indigenous inmates in federal institutions rose to 28 per cent in 2017-2018 from 20 per cent of the total inmate population in 2008-2009, while Indigenous Peoples represent only 4.1 percent of the overall Canadian population. Similarly, it said the percentage of federally incarcerated Indigenous women rose to 40 per cent from 32 per cent of the female inmate population.

LaForme said that’s why the new commission’s outreach efforts must include informing inmates about its existence and services. “They’re going to go out and let people know – who are incarcerated and in prisons – let them know that there is this independent body out there that will be available to look at their allegations of wrongful conviction…and miscarriage of justice,” he said.

June 30, 2021

Fed. Govt.

Exclusion of Métis from Residential School Settlement Agreement

Les Femmes Michif Otipemisiwak / Women of the Métis Nation (LFMO) – the National Indigenous Women’s Organization representing Métis women across the Métis Nation Motherland, is calling on the Federal Government to commit to a distinctions-based process and supports for Métis Residential School survivors and their families to heal in this unprecedented time of grief and loss for Métis, Inuit, and First Nations people.(After the discovery of about 1,250 unmarked graves at the sites of former residential schools). LFMO also sees Canada Day as an opportunity for a call to action from the Government of Canada to address its historic wrongs, including the continued exclusion of Métis survivors.

July 19, 2019

Fed. Govt.

Exclusion of Métis from Residential School Settlement Agreement

Métis Nation of Saskatchewan – Île-à-la-Crosse boarding school was operated by the Province of Saskatchewan and the Catholic Church from 1906 to 1976. Former students of the school were not eligible for compensation under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, as the school was never federally operated or administered.

Former Île-à-la-Crosse students filed a class action against the Government of Canada and Province of Saskatchewan in 2005. Plaintiffs allege that both governments are responsible for the sexual abuse, physical abuse, cultural abuse, isolation, and mental and emotional abuse that former students endured while attending the Boarding School. The MOU commits parties to exploratory discussions to address the legacy of the Île-à-la-Crosse boarding school. The parties welcome the participation of the Province of Saskatchewan in the discussions.

September 6, 2020


Ipperwash Inquiry

Chiefs of Ontario – Sept. 6, 2020, was the 25th anniversary of the Ipperwash crisis, where Dudley George, an unarmed Indigenous man was killed by an OPP sniper while peacefully protesting the expropriation of land from the Stoney Point Indian Band by the federal government in 1942 for a military base. Ancestral burial grounds were destroyed when the camp was built and 18 families were removed from the land. 53 years later, the land had not been returned as promised, hence the protest.

It took eight years of advocacy and activism from First Nations and other groups to receive an inquiry into the death of Dudley George and the events which took place on and around September 6, 1995. The subsequent Ipperwash Inquiry was meant to act as a roadmap “for new relationships between Aboriginal peoples and the Ontario Government based on respect and reconciliation”. 25 years later and the provincial government has continued to ignore some of the 100 recommendations emerging from the Ipperwash inquiry.

In total, the Final Report made 100 recommendations in the spirit of these key themes:

  • policing of Aboriginal protests and occupations
  • relationships among federal, provincial and First Nations governments
  • the land claims process
  • sharing the benefits of resource development
  • consultation concerning Aboriginal and treaty rights
  • public awareness and education about Aboriginal peoples

As a result, we have seen the creation of:

  • the Ontario Ministry of Indigenous Affairs;
  • the New Relationship Fund to improve First Nations’ abilities to consult on land and resource projects; and
  • an agreed return of Ipperwash Provincial Park to the Kettle and Stony Point First Nations.

What remains to be done after 25 years:

  • Create a Treaty Commission of Ontario,
  • permanent tripartite body to deal with land claims and assertions of treaty rights and title

We call on the province to meaningfully look at the 100 recommendations as not a checklist, but as the basis for good relationships which must be continually revisited and acted upon. In the years since Ipperwash, little has fundamentally changed.

October 4, 2021


Manitoba First Nations Survey Priorities to MMIWG Final Report

Southern Chiefs Organization (SCO) – “only 53% of murder cases involving [Indigenous] women and girls have led to charges of homicide. This is dramatically different from the national clearance rate for homicides in Canada, which was last reported as 84%” (NWAC, 2011). Governments and Canadian institutions now need to fully implement the Calls for Justice. We cannot wait any longer – lives depend on it. Our women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people deserve our time, our attention, and our full effort.

The disproportionate level of violence against Indigenous peoples is engrained in systems and institutions as a result of historical and ongoing colonialism, racism, and oppression. Furthermore, inaction and denial from non-Indigenous peoples, institutions, and governments is fueled by a continued denial of basic human dignity that is also deeply rooted in colonialism. As such, addressing the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people (MMIWG2S+) requires system level change through tangible actions that support reconciliation and decolonization efforts.

Of all the SCO community members who participated in this survey, 80% noted that they are either a family member or a friend of a missing or murdered Indigenous woman, girl, or 2SLGBTQQIA person, and/or a survivor of violence. These numbers demonstrate how close this issue is to many survey participants.
Priorities for Action from MMIWG recommendations:

  • Human and Indigenous rights (47%)
  • Justice (40%)
  • Culture and language (39%)
  • Child welfare (39%)
  • Education (37%)
  • Health and wellness (34%)
  • Policing (30%)
  • Human Security (14%)
  • Corrections (14%)
  • Natural Resource Extraction and Development (11%)
  • Media and Social Influencers (8%)

The report identifies multiple actions by key stakeholders in each of the “Priorities for Action”.

June 3, 2019

AB, BC, Fed. Govt., MB, NB, NL, NS, NT, NU, ON, PE, QC, SK, YT

MMIWG Inquiry – Final Report

“National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girl Final Report (MMIWG)” states:

  • Indigenous women and girls are 2.7 times more likely to experience violence than non-Indigenous women.
  • ]Homicide rates for Indigenous women were nearly seven times higher than for non- Indigenous women.
  • One quarter of all female homicide victims in Canada in 2015 were Indigenous, up from nine per cent in 1980. (CBC June 6, 2017)
  • Over the last ten years, the number of Aboriginal women inmates doubled (2005-2015). At the end of March 2018, 40.0% of incarcerated women were of Aboriginal ancestry. (Auditor-General Report 2018).

A permanent commitment to ending the genocide requires addressing the four pathways explored within this report, namely:

  • historical, multigenerational, and intergenerational trauma;
  • social and economic marginalization;
  • maintaining the status quo and institutional lack of will; andignoring the agency and expertise of Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people.
  • Indigenous women make up less than 5% of the population in Canada

It must be understood that these recommendations, which we frame as “Calls for Justice,” are legal imperatives – they are not optional. The Calls for Justice arise from international and domestic human and Indigenous rights laws, including the Charter ̧ the Constitution, and the Honour of the Crown. As such, Canada has a legal obligation to fully implement these Calls for Justice and to ensure Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people live in dignity. We demand a world within which First Nations, Inuit, and Métis families can raise their children with the same safety, security, and human rights that non-Indigenous families do, along with full respect for the Indigenous and human rights of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis families.



June 3, 2021

AB, BC, Fed. Govt., MB, NB, NL, NS, NT, NU, ON, PE, QC, SK, YT

MMIWG Inquiry – Government Action Plan Complaints

NationTalk – Ontario Native Women’s Association, Québec Native Women, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Chair in Indigenous Governance, Feminist Alliance for International Action – A consortia of Indigenous women’s advocacy groups representing 49% of Indigenous women’s voices in Canada finds that the National Action Plan and Federal Pathway on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is not an adequate response to the crisis of murders and disappearances. The 2021 “National Action Plan: Ending Violence against Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People”, drafted by a working group of selected Indigenous organizations and government officials, sets out a vision, goals, and immediate next steps. This plan does not answer how to keep Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people safe, with no specific information about how, when and by whom concrete actions will be taken. Nowhere in the document do governments acknowledge and accept responsibility for the laws, policies, and practices that contribute to, and perpetuate, the ongoing genocide of Indigenous peoples, and specifically of Indigenous women, girls 2SLGBTQQIA+ people.

The National Action Plan, together with the Federal Pathway document, are together extremely disappointing because it does not provide the comprehensive, system-wide, inter-governmental plan that is needed to end genocide. There is no commitment for urgent emergency services to prevent the abuse, exploitation, disappearances and murders of Indigenous women and girls; nor is there a monitoring mechanism – independent of the government of Canada – to monitor the urgent end to genocide.

“Considering that there is no coordination between the different levels of government, we ask ourselves what is the use of this work?” Viviane Michel, President, Quebec Native Women

“The Nation-to-Nation process continues to marginalize and alienate Indigenous women and the representatives of their choice from substantive legal, policy and economic decision-making and governance over their own lives.” Dr. Dawn Lavell-Harvard, President, Ontario Native Women’s Association

This is not a national action plan. A national action plan defines concrete actions that will be taken and assigns responsibility, resources and timelines for implementing them. This ‘Plan’ does none of that.” Shelagh Day, Chair, Human Rights Committee, Feminist Alliance for International Action


June 4, 2021

AB, BC, Fed. Govt., MB, NB, NL, NS, NT, NU, ON, PE, QC, SK, YT

MMIWG Inquiry – OAS Complaint

The Native Women’s Association of Canada -NWAC is taking immediate steps to file a Human Rights complaint in Canada and to request International intervention and investigation by the Organization of American States (OAS) and United Nations (UN) in forcing the federal government to take the steps necessary to end the genocide against Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people.

NWAC is taking that urgent action following a failed effort on the part of the federal government to table a genuine action plan to address the genocide against Indigenous women in Canada. Two years after the national Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls filed its final report, the federal government table a document called Federal Pathways earlier today in lieu of the national action plan that the Inquiry had mandated. This means that the government is not taking action on the 231 Calls for Justice that are legal imperatives. As set out in Calls for Justice 1.1 the action plan had to have:

  • dedicated funding
  • timelines for implementation
  • measurable goals, and
  • resources dedicated to capacity building, sustainability and long-term solutions.

The government’s Pathways document has none of these. In particular, the action plan had to include an implementation plan, and it does not.

October 4, 2021


Viens Commission Final Report

The report of the Viens Commission contains 142 recommendations, of which 135 are addressed to the Québec government 68 of which are in progress.
The calls for action cover the entire array of government services offered to the Indigenous peoples (justice, correctional and police services, health, social services, youth protection, and so on) and demand:

  • a change of organizational culture in the main public service networks;
  • the enhancement of the services that the indigenous peoples receive, especially health services;
    enhanced funding of public services;
  • enhanced delivery of certain public services intended for the Indigenous peoples;
    legislative and regulatory amendments;
  • heightened public awareness of Indigenous realities.

Initiatives with Concrete Spin-offs

The Québec government announced in Budget 2020 $200 million to implement the calls for action.

  • Enhance and perpetuate funding for services
    • Strengthen primary care in urban environments based on the innovative Val-d’Or health and social services model
    • Support the relocation of the Resilience Montreal homeless shelter in Montréal
    • Adapt the justice services offered to the Indigenous peoples through broader support for Indigenous Courtwork Services
  • Enhance the quality of services
    • Implement new community justice initiatives in urban environments
    • Establish mixed police intervention teams devoted to vulnerable individuals
    • Establish three new community living environments for adult and other students and their families
      Implement cultural safety in public service
    • Implement the cultural safety approach in the health and social services network
    • Enhance access to court interpreters in Indigenous languages

Concrete measures that have had or will have an immediate impact of the lives of individuals have been announced and $125 million has already been committed.

September 30, 2019


Viens Commission Final Report

“Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Québec: listening, reconciliation and progress: Final Report” (the Viens Commission) whose mandate was to investigate, ascertain the facts and make analyses with a view to making recommendations as to the concrete, effective and sustainable measures to be implemented by the Gouvernement du Québec and by the Aboriginal authorities to prevent or eliminate, regardless of their origin or cause, any form of violence or discriminatory practices or differential treatments in the provision of the following public services to the Aboriginals of Québec: police services, correctional services, justice services, health and social services and youth protection services.

The 142 Calls for Action are spread across the following themes:

  • Police Services = 13
  • Justice Services = 16
  • Correctional Services = 18
  • Health and Social Services = 34
  • Youth Protection Services = 30
  • Tracking Mechanism 5
  • Other = 26

The first two Calls to Action of the Viens Commission Final Report are:


Make a public apology to members of First Nations and Québec’s Inuit for the harm caused by laws, policies, standards and the practices of public service providers.

CALL FOR ACTION No. 2 – To National Assembly

Adopt a motion to recognize and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Québec.

March 5, 2021


Viens Commission Final Report: Initial investments

In response to the Viens Commission, the MMIWG Inquiry and ZERO TOLERANCE, the government of Québec announced an investment of $19.2M in the following areas:

  • Hiring additional Indigenous workers responsible for providing crime victims assistance services ($7.7 million):
    • These workers will be deployed in the CAVAC network and in Indigenous organizations that have established victim assistance services, or that wish to do so.
  • An increased deployment of courtworker services for Indigenous people ($6 million):
    • Adjustment of the compensation for courtworkers already employed ($1 million);
    • Increased funding for the operation of Indigenous organizations responsible for providing courtworker services ($2.5 million);
    • Hiring of new courtworkers from within the community for First Nations and Inuit ($2.5 million);
  • Improvement and deployment of interpreter services in Indigenous languages ($5.5 million):
    • Development of agreements with Indigenous organizations for the training, accreditation and hiring of interpreters in Indigenous languages in the context of justice-related activities.

September 30, 2020


Viens Commission Final Report: Progress Report

Office of the Minister Responsible for Indigenous Affairs – The government is pleased to announce that out of 142 calls for action, 51 of direct concern to it are already under discussion, completed or on the way to completion, for example:

  • Call for action 1: Make a public apology to members of First Nations and Québec’s Inuit for the harm caused by laws, policies, standards and the practices of public service providers. (On Oct. 2, 2019 Premier Legault apologized to the Indigenous people of Quebec for discrimination they suffered in dealing with the state);
  • Call for action 2: To National Assembly – Adopt a motion to recognize and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Québec.
  • Call for action 56: Train all Québec probation officers to prepare Indigenous pre-sentencing reports and teach them the reassuring cultural approach for collecting information;
  • Call for action 130: Ensure that families and significant people who are not represented by an association and who foster Indigenous children receive financial compensation equivalent to family-type resources.

In order enable itself to take action, to implement the calls for action and calls for justice of the two commissions of inquiry (the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and the Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services [the Viens Commission]), the government allocated $200 million in new funding over five years, in the 2020 budget.

June 23, 2021


Viens Commission Final Report: Québec Ombudsman to monitor progress

CISION – The report of the Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Québec recommended that the Government of Québec mandate the Québec Ombudsman to monitor and assess implementation of the calls to action it contains until they are fully carried out. Québec Ombudsperson Marie Rinfret gratefully welcomes the receptiveness of the Indigenous organizations of Québec to her active role in assessing whether the Viens Commission’s calls to action are being implemented. The creation of an advisory committee, composed of First Nations and Inuit members, will promote collaboration so that the Viens Commission’s calls to action translate into concrete outcomes that respond to the needs of the First Nations and Inuit representatives, no matter their living environment