NAN Legal looking to provide Gladue workers in communities
Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services is looking to provide Gladue workers in Nishnawbe Aski Nation communities through recently announced Legal Aid Ontario funding.
“There’s a fund of about $3 million and we’re trying to get money for our Gladue workers,” said Celina Reitberger, executive director of NAN Legal. “We’re going to hire three workers — one for the central (area), one for the east and one for the west.”
Reitberger said NAN Legal’s community legal workers, who already have a reputation in the community, will provide information to the Gladue workers.
“The Gladue workers will put together the information for the Gladue reports,” Reitberger said. “Lawyers are now being paid to do Gladue submissions.”
Gladue services have been required since the Supreme Court’s 1999 R v. Gladue decision that courts must consider an Aboriginal offender’s background when they are being sentenced for a crime.
Gladue related services are currently offered at courts in Toronto, Hamilton, Brantford, the Waterloo-Wellington area and Sarnia. Toronto and Sarnia also have dedicated Gladue courts.
NAN currently does not have any Gladue writers in the NAN Legal communities.
“NAN has absolutely no Gladue workers or writers for any of our communities,” said Mary Jean Robinson, area director for Legal Aid Ontario Area Office 48 at NAN Legal. “Gladue reports are utilized to explain to the court why there should be an alternative to incarceration. And it’s partly to address the over-incarceration of First Nationspeople across the country.”
Reitberger said the Gladue workers would be “very helpful” for community members.
“Because of the language barrier, because of the isolation, it is evident that Gladue workers need to be in this area,” Reitberger said.
Legal Aid Ontario announced five more years of funding for the Aboriginal Justice Strategy in early March.
“The Aboriginal Justice Strategy allows LAO to further target our services where they are needed the most,” said John McCamus, Legal Aid Ontario’s chair. “A part of this strategy includes meeting with Aboriginal stakeholders across the province to discuss potential opportunities for expanding culturally-appropriate, localized legal aid services.”
Legal Aid Ontario plans to provide Aboriginal clients with a number of services, including free specialized legal services in Gladue courts; funding for the award-winning Baamsedaa (Let’s Walk Together) program in Sarnia; new legal aid advice clinics opening on reserves across Ontario; new Aboriginal justice workers in Sarnia and Hamilton and a new website providing Aboriginal-related news and resources for lawyers and clients.
Legal Aid Ontario also plans to continue service enhancements to Aboriginal clients in the coming months while also welcoming feedback from stakeholders on proposed improvements.
NAN Legal currently received annualized funding from Legal Aid Ontario to provide general operation of a Legal Aid Ontario area office.
“We also have the ability to issue legal aid certificates and retain duty counsel,” Robinson said. “We have been trying to get funding for other things and we haven’t been able to.”
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