News release

Fair Treatment of Indigenous Peoples Prosecution Policy to Direct Crown Attorneys

Nova Scotia Crown attorneys are now guided by a new comprehensive policy when conducting criminal prosecutions involving Indigenous peoples.

The Public Prosecution Service developed the policy, Fair Treatment of Indigenous Peoples in Criminal Prosecutions in Nova Scotia, in accordance with the established special legal and constitutional status of Indigenous peoples. The Supreme Court of Canada has recognized the unique history of Indigenous peoples and their treatment by the criminal justice system in landmark cases R. v. Gladue and R. v. Ipeelee. As well, the Criminal Code clearly states that an Indigenous offender’s unique circumstances must be considered in order to apply a fair sentence.

“Indigenous peoples have become disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system in Nova Scotia as elsewhere in Canada,” says Ingrid Brodie, a chief Crown attorney and chair of the Public Prosecution Service’s Equity and Diversity Committee. “Because of their unique circumstances and culture along with a history of racism and discrimination, Indigenous peoples are afforded special consideration within the criminal justice system.”

The policy references years of dislocation, lack of economic opportunity, forced family disruption through residential schooling and child welfare systems, lost culture, language and traditions. It acknowledges this history has resulted in low incomes, high unemployment and a lack of opportunities and education for many Indigenous peoples. These circumstances, in turn, have given rise to a disproportionate rate of suicide, imprisonment and substance abuse among Indigenous peoples.

“Indigenous peoples in Nova Scotia have every right to expect fair treatment within the criminal justice system,” said Attorney General and Minister of Justice Mark Furey. “This policy provides additional clarity for our Crown attorneys and I’m pleased the Public Prosecution Service has taken this initiative.”

As Crown attorneys prepare prosecutions, the policy guides them as they consider unique background factors contributing to an Indigenous person’s contact with the criminal justice system both as accused persons and as victims. Crown attorneys must maintain a flexible and open approach to criminal prosecutions arising in the Indigenous community. The policy also recognizes the emphasis placed by Indigenous peoples on rehabilitation, community healing and community-based penalties.

“What our policy does is provide the Crown attorney with specific step by step direction,” says Ms. Brodie. “The Public Prosecution Service wants to give its Crown attorneys the best possible tool to most effectively address what is already enshrined in law for Indigenous peoples. It will help Nova Scotia be more effective in decreasing its rates of victimization, crime and incarceration among Indigenous peoples by conducting culturally competent prosecutions.”

Before finalizing the policy, the Public Prosecution Service consulted with several Mi’kmaw lawyers familiar with the criminal justice system. The policy was presented to Crown attorneys at their recent educational conference.

In Canada, Nova Scotia is among the leaders in providing specific policy direction to its Crown attorneys on prosecutions involving Indigenous peoples.

For a summary of the policy, visit https://novascotia.ca/pps/publications/ca_manual/AdministrativePolicies/Fair-Treatment-of-Indigenous-Peoples-Summary.pdf .

The full policy can be found at https://novascotia.ca/pps/publications/ca_manual/AdministrativePolicies/Fair-Treatment-of-Indigenous-Peoples.pdf .

FOR BROADCAST USE:

Nova Scotia Crown attorneys can now look to a new policy when prosecuting any criminal case involving Indigenous peoples.

The Public Prosecution Service says the policy recognizes the special legal and constitutional status of Indigenous peoples. It considers the unique history, circumstances and culture of Indigenous peoples.

Ingrid Brodie, chief Crown attorney and chair of the Public Prosecution Service’s Equity and Diversity Committee which wrote the policy says Indigenous peoples have become disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system and the policy is a step-by-step guide reminding Crown attorneys to consider the unique factors contributing to an Indigenous person’s contact with the criminal justice system.

Ms. Brodie says the policy is a tool to help Nova Scotia Crown attorneys conduct culturally competent prosecutions. She also says this will help lower the province’s rate of victimization, crime and imprisonment among Indigenous peoples.

Attorney General Mark Furey welcomes the policy saying Indigenous people have a right to expect fair treatment within the criminal justice system.

The Public Prosecution Service consulted with several Mi’kmaw lawyers before finalizing the policy.

The policy, along with all prosecution policies, is on the Public Prosecution Service’s website.

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