Current Problems

Justice (25-42)

Aboriginal Justice Inquiry

February 26, 2021

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.