Justice (25-42): Current Problems

Legislative Issues

March 5, 2021


“The Petty Trespasses Act”

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs – AMC states that “Bill 63 The Petty Trespasses Amendment and Occupiers Liability Amendment Act (Petty Trespasses Act)” introduced for first reading in the Manitoba legislature “attempts to legislate its way into First Nations’ areas of autonomy and jurisdiction. “The AMC cannot allow provincial laws to violate Treaty rights. First Nations Treaty rights are paramount, superseding provincial laws. This remains true, and has been repeatedly upheld at the Supreme Court of Canada on issues of trespassing,” added Grand Chief Dumas. “The AMC and First Nations leadership puts the Province on notice that we will explore all options, including legal challenges and political action to fight for and protect Treaty rights. We will not permit any provincial legislative measure to target First Nations directly, infringe civil liberties and violate Treaty and inherent rights,” continued Grand Chief Dumas.

The Legislative Assembly of Manitoba should not be used to promote partisan bickering and pursue party politics in a manner that uses its legislative ability to attack First Nations’ inherent and Treaty rights. The AMC will continue to stand up and defend First Nations and their rights and interests

June 11, 2020


Bill 1 – Critical Infrastruture Defence Act

HuffPost – “Bill 1 – The The Critical Infrastructure Defence Act” bans protests at critical infrastructure such as “pipelines, oilsands sites, mining sites as well as utilities, streets, highways, railways, and telecom towers and equipment. Violators who protest, trespass, interfere with operations, or cause damage around that kind of infrastructure will face fines as high as $10,000 or six months in jail or both. Further offences will garner fines of up to $25,000 and jail time.” The Bill was introduced specifically as a response to the Wetsu’wet’en Coastal GasLink protests in BC. and significantly impacts Indigenous rights and title especially given the governments lack of consultation on major projects that negatively impact Indigenous communities and lives.

Arthur Noskey, Grand Chief of the Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta, said the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act violates Indigenous and treaty rights, calling it a “racialized bill,” and one that will aggravate tensions between police and Indigenous people.

“We have a human right to voice our concerns. In our case, we have a treaty right and that’s not being respected,” explained Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief of Alberta, Marlene Poitras, “You’re going to criminalize the First Peoples of this land who agreed to share the lands with foreigners that came in. This impacts our way of life. There’s no chance of reconciliation with the UCP government with this.”

February 18, 2021

Fed. Govt.

Bill C-22 : An Act to amend the Criminal Code….”

Toronto Star – Bill C-22 “An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act” although a step in the right direction does not go far enough, critics say. The fact that the bill does not remove mandatory minimums for more crimes and does not repeal simple drug possession from the Criminal Code was described by lawyers and advocates as a missed opportunity in an otherwise strong bill.

Senator Kim Pate who introduces legislation in the Senate that would allow judges to use their discretion to deviate from mandatory minimums, expressed disappointment that the government didn’t go further in eliminating more of those penalties. “Bill C-22 emphasizes the vital importance of alternatives to criminalization and imprisonment to redress systemic racism. It is regrettable that the government acknowledges these realities yet stopped short of taking the kinds of bold steps we need right now,” she said. Indigenous people make up 5% of the population yet account for 30% of those incarcerated in Canadian prisons.

Department of Justice: The Bill proposes the following specific reforms:

  • Repeal MMPs for certain offences to address the disproportionate impact on Indigenous and Black offenders, as well as those struggling with substance use and addiction. This would restore the ability of a judge to impose appropriate sentences that respond to the facts of the case before them, including the individual’s experience with systemic racism and the risk they pose to public safety. This moves away from the one-size-fits-all approach, which has not deterred crime but has resulted in unfair outcomes and a less effective criminal justice system, as well as longer and more complex trials.
  • Allow for greater use of conditional Sentence orders (CSOs) in cases where an offender faces a term of less than two years imprisonment and does not pose a threat to public safety. Under these circumstances, judges would have the option to order that the term be served in the community under strict conditions, including house arrest, curfew, and mandatory counselling or treatment for substance abuse. This change would allow for more effective rehabilitation and reintegration by enabling individuals to maintain their employment, or continue caring for children or family members in need. This approach has been proven to reduce recidivism.
  • Require police and prosecutors to consider other measures for simple possession of drugs such as diversion to addiction treatment programs, rather than laying charges or prosecuting individuals for simple possession of an illegal drug.
  • The proposed amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act reinforce the Government’s commitment to treat substance use a health issue, and address the opioid crisis. It also aligns with calls heard from many in the law enforcement community and local leaders across the country.

April 12, 2019

Fed. Govt.

Bill S-215 An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Sentencing for Violent Offences Against Aboriginal Women)

Native Women’s Association of Canada – As a supporter of this bill, Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) hoped it would be an important step forward with respect to the urgent issues Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people face today such as heightened likelihood of disappearance, human trafficking, violent crimes, and forced and coerced sterilization. NWAC hoped the House of Commons would see Bill S-215 as a step towards justice for Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people who face so much discrimination in Canada’s legal system.

April 10, 2019

Fed. Govt.

Bill S-215 An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Sentencing for Violent Offences Against Aboriginal Women)

Defeat of “Bill S-215, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Sentencing for Violent Offences Against Aboriginal Women)” in the House of Commons during the second reading on April 10, 2019. The Bill would have required a court to take Indigenous female identity into account during the sentencing of offenders.

Those “in favour” of Bill S-215:

NDP = 35; Green = 1; Bloc Québécois = 7 Liberals = 2; Conservatives = 0

This legislative defeat occurs at the same time as the imminent release of the MMIWG Final Report on the overrepresentation of Indigenous Women and Girls as victims of violent crimes. A 2016 report by Amnesty International found that “Indigenous women and girls suffer the highest rates of violence in Canada”

December 4, 2018

Fed. Govt.

Bill S-215 An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Sentencing for Violent Offences Against Aboriginal Women)

Toronto Star – When there’s a large-scale industrial development, when there’s construction camps that are co-located, we have documented increases in the rates of sexual assault, the rates of sexualized violence, the rates of prostitution, the rates of sexually transmitted infections,” said Ginger Gibson, director of the Firelight Group, which does research in Indigenous and local communities in Canada. Firelight’s 2017 report cites a 38 per cent increase in sexual assaults reported to RCMP during the first year of construction on an industrial project in Fort St. James, British Columbia. (Toronto Star)

June 3, 2019


Cutting Legal Aid Funding

Ottawa Citizen – Cuts to Legal Aid Ontario are “mean-spirited” and will push the province closer to a two-tiered legal system, where Indigenous people, the poor and refugees will be at an even greater disadvantage, Ottawa lawyers warn.

April 12, 2019


Cutting Legal Aid Funding by 30%

The provincial government is cutting funding to Legal Aid Ontario by 30% that negatively impacts the Indigenous population who are one of the most disadvantaged and impoverished in Ontario and one of the most over-represented in the criminal justice system.

November 12, 2020

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

Federal, Provincial, Territory Ministers responsible for human rights

NationTalk – 24 civil society groups attending the third ever meeting of Federal, Provincial, Territory Ministers responsible for human rights “condemned the obstructive attitude of some governments” in advancing international human rights obligations. Groups had pressed governments to commit to nation-wide law reform that will legally require governments to adopt a collaborative, accountable, consistent, transparent, well-coordinated approach to effectively implementing international human rights obligations in Canada. No commitment was made. Two governments boycotted the meeting:

  • The government of Quebec opposed included references to “systemic” racism in the final communiqué, a position that blatantly ignores the undeniable reality of deeply-rooted systemic racism in the province and across Canada, and thus reaffirms systemic racism as a nationwide reality.]
  • The government of Alberta considers that the province is not bound to report on or engage with international instruments or mechanisms to which it is not a Party, a position that contravenes international law which makes it clear that federalism is no excuse or justification for failing to comply with international obligations.

In 2017, meeting for the first time in 29 years, ministers made several commitments to strengthen their collaboration in protecting human rights across Canada:

  • Ministers had taken account of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call on federal, provincial and territorial governments to “fully adopt and implement” the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It is a shocking and unacceptable omission to see no reference to the Declaration in the final communiqué from this week’s meeting.
  • During the past eight months of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, no government has applied – equitably or otherwise – an explicit economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights framework to analyze the problems laid bare, or to structure solutions.

A widely-endorsed proposal in April 2020 from 302 civil society groups, Indigenous peoples’ organizations and a broad spectrum of subject matter experts to federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments to institute meaningful human rights oversight of their COVID-19 responses has not been taken up by any government in the country.

At the current meeting, Ministers discussed the human rights implications of the COVID-19 pandemic and agreed that it is “important that human rights principles be considered in the development of plans for a strong and equitable recovery from the pandemic for all Canadians” but in no way acknowledged or even referenced social and economic rights. The proposal for human rights oversight of COVID-19 responses was not addressed.

June 3, 2022

BC, Fed. Govt.

First Nations Leadership Council troubled by lack of progress on implementing the MMIWG Calls to Justice

NationTalk: (Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh)/Vancouver, B.C.) – On the third anniversary of the release of the National Inquiry’s Final Report and Calls for Justice, the First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC) is deeply troubled by the lack of progress to implement the Calls for Justice. Despite the finding of genocide made by the National Inquiry, and the horrific experiences of systemic discrimination and violence that were brought to light, the Canadian and British Columbian governments’ work on this issue has been marked by a lack of committed resources, poor communication and coordination, and inadequate partnership with First Nations people.

Violence against Indigenous women, Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual (2SLGBTQQIA+) people continues to intensify, including rates of domestic violence against women and girls in what has been termed a Shadow Pandemic by the United Nations since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, we have not seen substantive changes since the National Inquiry to address these growing rates of gender-based violence or meaningful redress to dismantle their colonial underpinnings. Government commitments to address systemic causes of violence, including human insecurity are wholly insufficient. Supports for victims, family members, and communities of those who have gone missing or been murdered also remain in a patchwork state and leave families to navigate a Justice System which has been shown to be racist and discriminatory towards Indigenous women and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people, exposing them to (re)traumatization.

Budget 2021 provided for $2.2 billion over 5 years and $160.9 million per year on-going to respond to the Calls for Justice; however, we have yet to see changes on the ground that point toward transformative change. While there were broad commitments to address gender-based violence in Budget 2022, there were no additional funds specifically earmarked to address the disproportionate violence against Indigenous women and girls.

In addition to resourcing and capacity issues, movement on the National Action Plan is hampered by the lack of proper partnerships with Indigenous women, families, First Nations governments and organizations, and front line and grass roots organizations. The FNLC urges renewed action based on true partnership that recognizes the urgency of the situation. Each day where the status quo prevails is one where Indigenous women and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people are at risk, and experience unacceptable violence.

The FNLC calls on the governments of Canada and BC to immediately prioritize ending gender-based violence and to treat the MMIWG2S+ crisis with the urgency demanded to end genocide once and for all in this country as has been mandated by the National Inquiry and UN Declaration. The FNLC urges all members of the public, and companies and organizations in all sectors to become informed about the Calls for Justice and issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people, take action, and hold those in power accountable.

The First Nations Leadership Council is comprised of the political executives of the BC Assembly of First Nations (BCAFN), First Nations Summit (FNS), and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC).


January 26, 2021

Fed. Govt.

Women’s Shelters in Iuit Nunangat

Indigenous Services Canada – Commit to fund the construction and operations of shelters for Inuit women and children across Inuit Nunangat as well as in urban centres. Funding for the new shelters will be part of the $724.1 million for a comprehensive Violence Prevention Strategy as announced in the 2020 Fall Economic Statement. The government will continue to work with Pauktuutit and other Inuit partners to determine the locations and define the details of the projects to best meet the needs of women and families seeking shelter.

September 14, 2020

Fed. Govt.

Women’s Shelters in Iuit Nunangat

Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada – Inuit communities are not eligible to access funding for shelters through the federal government’s Family Violence Prevention Program for Indigenous women, children and families. In its recent pre-budget submission to the Standing Committee on Finance (now paused due to the prorogation of Parliament), Pauktuutit reiterated its shelter ask as an urgent priority, along with the following two recommendations:

  1. That the federal government financially support the implementation of Pauktuutit’s 15 policing recommendations aimed at improving the safety and security of Inuit women (as per the January 2020 report Addressing Gendered Violence Against Inuit Women: A review of police policies and practices in Inuit Nunangat);
  2. That the federal government financially support the creation and delivery of programming aimed at improving the well-being and safety of Inuit women and children living in urban centres throughout Canada, including increasing access to affordable housing and skills training opportunities.

June 2, 2020

Fed. Govt.

Women’s Shelters in Iuit Nunangat

Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada – Historically, the Minister of Indigenous Affairs has only had authority to provide funding for shelters on First Nations reserves, resulting in a glaring policy and program gap for vulnerable Inuit women and children. Inuit women face violence at a rate 14 times greater than other women in Canada. Of the 51 communities in Inuit Nunangat, 37 of them (73%) do not have safe places for Inuit women and girls fleeing violence.