Northern Canada: Council of Yukon First Nations to train writers for Indigenous sentencing reports

Grand Chief Peter Johnston of the Council of Yukon First Nations, flanked by Yukon Justice Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee, speaks to reporters at a news conference in Whitehorse, Yukon on Thursday. (Chris Windeyer/CBC)
The Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN) is taking over a pilot project aimed at training people in the Northern Canadian territory to write Gladue reports.

The project was launched in 2018 with a budget of $530,000 and run by the Yukon Legal Services Society.

Gladue reports offer detailed information about Indigenous people facing criminal charges. Courts are obligated to consider those factors when sentencing Indigenous offenders.

“This is an opportunity to make sure that there is consistency, there is good training, there is information that must be before the courts presented in these kinds of cases,” said Tracy-Anne McPhee, Yukon’s justice minister.

Since the pilot project launched in February 2018, organizers have trained three writers, with four more on the way. The CYFN has hired a full-time coordinator for the project, something it didn’t have before. The program’s budget allows for the production of up to 35 reports per year.

Cultural awareness

CYFN Grand Chief Peter Johnston said the program will help make the justice system more responsive to the needs of First Nations.

“We are very fortunate that we’re working with the government now, to not only start transferring some of these responsibilities, to not only strengthen and improve the system to give it more of a First Nation touch, but more importantly to get to the root of a lot of the problems that our people are facing,” he said.

The eventual goal is to have at least 10 Gladue report writers in the territory, and ideally one from each Yukon First Nation community, said Shadelle Chambers, CYFN’s executive director.

Chambers said that will help ensure courts have the cultural information they need to include in sentencing.

“We want to ensure that the report writers are aware and are culturally appropriate in terms of being able to hear the stories of Yukon First Nations offenders,” she said.

Chambers said hiring more writers will make it possible for Gladue reports to be completed more quickly. And she said the training process for writers includes advice on how to deal with “vicarious trauma” that writers might experience when dealing with troubling cases.

CYFN says it will conduct outreach to raise awareness about the project in the communities this fall.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canada’s northwestern Yukon territory reflects on Gladue Indigenous sentencing principle, CBC News

Finland: Police in Northern Finland overstretched, says retiring officer, Yle News

Sweden: Cross-border Nordic policing would better serve Arctic: politician, Radio Sweden

United States: Will a new policing strategy help fight crime in Alaska’s largest city?, Alaska Public Media

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