The Ontario Court of Justice’s new ‘Aboriginal’ Persons’ Court (also known as Gladue Court), got off to a slow start last Thursday. Of the 13 cases listed on the docket, only two were heard before the noon hour. Charges listed on the docket ranged from theft, fraud, unlawful entry, causing a disturbance, assault peace officer, failure to attend court to possession under $5000.
Justice Gethin Edwards, who self-identifies as a Native person, spoke before the packed courtroom. “This is a historic day here in Brantford,” said Edwards. He told the court that it took over a year of planning to bring a Gladue Court to Brantford. The reason Edwards decided it was time for a specialty court in Brantford is that he believes there is an ‘over-incarceration rate of Aboriginal peoples’ in the criminal justice system. Brantford sits next to one of the largest First Nations communities in Canada.
Edwards explained the idea behind this new ‘Aboriginal’ Persons’ Court (APC), “We are going to take our time and listen to the stories of the offenders.” He went on to say that this should not be seen as simply a ‘slap on the wrist’ because there are ‘consequences for criminal conduct.’ Although he is hoping for more successes then failures, he stated he is not naïve and expects to see a certain amount of recidivism: that is, people reoffending over and over again.
Before the very first case of the APC was to be heard lastFriday, Justice Edwards asked the people in the courtroom to leave. After the first case was heard before the court and about an hour later, everyone was invited back in the courtroom to hear the second case which involved a man who was charged with mischief to a motor vehicle and breach of probation. The incident happened back in early December. The accused, who self identified as a Native person and never grew up on a reserve, chased his ex-girlfriend on foot as she was trying to flee from him in her vehicle. He then threw an unknown object through her car window, which also had her mother and the children that the coupled shared in the vehicle as well. Nobody was physically injured in the incident, which happened in Brantford.
Not giving the details of his Gladue Report, the Crown Attorney referred to it as ‘disturbing and tragic.’ The Crown Attorney asked for a sentence of 60-90 days in custody, followed by counseling for substance abuse and alcohol issues. Also, other issues from his Gladue Report needed to be addressed as well.
The accused received a conditional sentence of time served plus probation. He must attend a treatment program and is to come back to court in April for a follow up to make sure he completed all his requirements successfully. If the accused fails to complete all of his requirements, he may face a term of imprisonment.