Report of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry of Manitoba
Terms of Reference
In November 1999 the Manitoba government appointed the Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission (AJIC). This Commission was charged with reviewing those recommendations made in the 1991 Report of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry of Manitoba for which the Province of Manitoba is responsible and accountable, and with proposing methods of implementing appropriate Aboriginal Justice Inquiry (AJI) recommendations. The AJIC was instructed to complete this work by March 31, 2001, a deadline that was later extended to June 30, 2001.
The AJIC was mandated to address only those AJI recommendations that touch upon areas for which the Manitoba government is responsible and accountable. The AJIC was also instructed to have regard to the Framework Agreement entered into between Canada and First Nations, and to the reports of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP). The 1994 Framework Agreement, between the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Minister of Indian Affairs, undertakes to dismantle the operations of the Department of Indian Affairs in Manitoba.
The AJI, however, recommended action not only by the Province, but also by the federal government and by Aboriginal governments, including many joint initiatives between these parties.
Following the appointment of the AJIC, the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs requested all government departments to provide the AJIC with reports on the status of implementation of the AJI recommendations that pertain to their departments. It is these recommendations that are, in large measure, under review in this report. The AJIC reviewed those reports and met with members of the appropriate government departments.
Communication and Consultation
The Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission was mandated to communicate and consult with Manitobans on priority areas for action and on implementation strategies. Given the fact that the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry held extensive public hearings, such hearings were not considered to be required for the AJIC to fulfill its mandate, nor were they authorized.
The AJIC also circulated proposed recommendations to organizations that would be affected by these recommendations. In a number of cases, recommendations have already been adopted and implemented by the government. The AJIC also posted the recommendations and the policy initiatives on its web page.
The Commission's mandate stresses the need to set priorities for short-term and long-term action, and to make proposals that are cost-effective and attainable. At the same time, they must reflect the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry's support for a justice system that is flexible and can be administered at the local level. The Commission, through its consultation with Aboriginal people, government officials, and outside experts, and through its own research, has concluded that the resolution to the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in the justice system will come, over the long term, from within and outside the justice system. Indeed, many of the people and organizations the Commission consulted stressed the need to ensure that reform is not limited to the justice system. People repeatedly pointed to the effects on the family of poverty, ill health, and marginalization.
Based on these views, raised by virtually every group the AJIC consulted with, the Commissioners established the following priority areas for their work:
Northern Flood Agreement
treaty land entitlement
employment and cross-cultural training
violence towards women and children
early support and crime prevention measures for youth
Three themes emerge from these priorities:
Based on these themes, this report is organized into five sections: an Introduction, a section on Aboriginal Rights and Aboriginal Relations, a section on Community and Restorative Justice, a section on Crime Prevention through Community Development, and Concluding Thoughts. The relevant AJI recommendations are addressed using criteria developed by the Commission. The following briefly describes the priorities that will be applied in each section.
Aboriginal Rights and Aboriginal Relations
This Commission will give priority to measures that:
fulfill land entitlement obligations
fulfill Northern Flood Agreement obligations
fulfill obligations to Métis people
approach Aboriginal issues in a manner that leads to a recognition and fulfillment of Aboriginal rights, and to reconciliation between Aboriginal people and other Canadians
improve the justice system while assisting Aboriginal people and communities to undertake measures that can lead to the implementation of their constitutional and other legal rights
Community and Restorative Justice
The Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission has concluded that in order to reduce the number of Aboriginal people involved with the justice system:
greater participation by Aboriginal people and Aboriginal communities is required at all stages in the justice system,
justice system personnel need to understand better the impact of normal system practices on Aboriginal people,
steps must be taken to improve the economic and social conditions of Aboriginal people, and
children, youth, and the family should be a particular focus of services and programs.
The first two beliefs animate the recommendations in Section Three, Community and Restorative Justice, while the second two beliefs underpin the approach that the Commission recommends in Section Four, Crime Prevention through Community Development. Based on these goals, the recommendations of the AJI, and consultations and research, this Commission will give priority to measures that:
reduce the use of incarceration and encourage correctional program service delivery in communities
use alternative or conditional sentences for as many offenders as possible
encourage support and confidence in the system, through more Aboriginal-controlled service delivery such as police and probation services, more employment of Aboriginal people at all levels, and greater understanding of the impact of the system on Aboriginal people through cross-cultural and other training
provide adequately resourced treatment programs for offenders and others
provide community policing rooted in genuine partnership among police officers, police departments, governments, and the community
assist more community involvement, where communities want and have the capacity to assume and maintain justice roles, and provide adequate resources for these communities to discharge their duties
Crime Prevention through Community Development
The changes outlined in the section on the Community and Restorative Justice are necessary to improve the legitimacy, credibility, effectiveness, and, finally, the justness, of our justice system. On their own, they are not sufficient to bring about the needed reduction in the Aboriginal crime rate.
The young people in Manitoba's Aboriginal communities are at risk. The choices facing the people of Manitoba are stark: invest today in programs to strengthen families, young people, and communities; or make future investments in jails and courthouses.
Based on its goals, the recommendations of the AJI, and consultations and research, this Commission gives priority to measures that:
create conditions that lessen the likelihood of young people being engaged in criminal and other anti-social behaviour
strengthen schools, including by reducing truancy and school exclusion, and by creating family and school partnerships
strengthen communities socially, economically, and culturally
In its concluding section, this report addresses a number of issues that flow from its mandate. The final chapter of the report discusses proposals for a successor institution to the Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission. Such an institution, styled the Aboriginal Justice Commission, was recommended in the original Aboriginal Justice Inquiry report. The fact that limited progress was made in implementing the AJI recommendations in the decade following its release, when compared with the progress that has been made during the lifetime of the AJIC, would appear to demonstrate considerable merit in the establishment of a continuing Aboriginal Justice Commission. This report also recommends the establishment of a Roundtable on Aboriginal Issues.