Ontario Working Towards Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples
New Elders Council and Gladue Summit Contributing to a More Responsive Justice System
Ontario has established a new Elders Council that will provide advice to the Attorney General to make the justice system more responsive to the needs of Indigenous people and support the reclamation of Indigenous legal systems.
The new council reflects a commitment made by the province in The Journey Together: Ontario's Commitment to Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples and will incorporate the advice of Elders into government decision-making on matters related to Indigenous peoples in the justice system.
The council includes 13 respected Indigenous Elders from diverse communities across the province:
- Barney Batise - A Nishnawbe Aski Nation Elder and former Chief of Matachewan First Nation
- Katsi Cook - Mohawk, of the Wolf Clan, Mohawks of Akwesasne
- Helen Cromarty - Of Cree ancestry, a member of Sachigo Lake First Nation and a residential school survivor
- Donna Debassige - Anishinaabe kwe, of the Fish Clan from Mnidoo Mnising (Manitoulin Island), and a member of the Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve
- Albert Dumont - Born and raised in traditional Algonquin territory (Kitigan Zibi)
- Alex Jacobs - Born at Lake Penage on the Whitefish Lake First Nation Community
- Janice Longboat - Mohawk, Turtle Clan of Six Nations of the Grand River
- Marlene Pierre - An Ojibwe of the Fort William First Nation, born and raised in the city of Thunder Bay
- Verna Porter-Burnelle - Citizen of the Métis Nation of Ontario
- David Serkoak - Born in the northern tip of Nueltin Lake, Nunavut
- Pauline Shirt - Born and raised in Saddle Lake Reserve, Alberta, residing in Toronto
- Gilbert Smith - Naicatchewenin First Nation near Fort Frances, Ontario
- Sally Webster - Born on the land near Baker Lake, Nunavut, now living in Ottawa
Creating a culturally relevant and responsive justice system is one of many steps on Ontario's journey of healing and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
- The application of Gladue principles in all Ontario Courts is important in addressing the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system. Gladue principles require that systemic and background circumstances of Indigenous accused be considered at bail hearings and sentencing, along with all available sanctions other than imprisonment.
- Ontario is hosting a three-day Gladue summit in Thunder Bay from November 28 – 30. The summit is another commitment in The Journey Together and is designed to gather input from Indigenous leaders, organizations and communities, along with justice sector representatives, to help address the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system.
- In partnership with Legal Aid Ontario and the federal government, Ontario currently funds Gladue report writers who serve 18 areas across the province.. Ontario also funds 10 Gladue aftercare workers in various parts of the province.
- As part of the province’s commitment to reconciliation, Ontario has committed an additional $13.3 million over three years to expand the Gladue program.
- The Journey Together: Ontario’s Commitment to Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, outlines the province's response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.
“Building a justice system that is both culturally relevant and responsive to the needs of Indigenous people is not something our government can achieve alone. Meaningful progress will depend on the wisdom and experience of Indigenous people. The Elders Council will help guide Ontario in its mission to support the reclamation of Indigenous legal systems and strengthen justice for Indigenous peoples in the province. I am grateful to the 13 Elders who answered this call, and I look forward to working with them.”
“Addressing the problem of Indigenous overrepresentation in the justice system is a priority for our government, which is why we are working closely with Indigenous people on new approaches that are culturally appropriate and respect traditional practices. The application of Gladue principles in all Ontario courts is important to our government, and the work of the Elders Council is critical to those efforts as part of the journey of reconciliation we are taking with Indigenous people.”