We have written previously about the various injustices and roadblocks faced by Alberta’s various First Nations communities in our provincial court system, as it applies to child intervention and guardianship matters, as well as our work with these communities, such as the Káínawa Blood Tribe, which we successfully represented in the Blood Tribe’s application to be granted intervenor standing in a guardianship matter involving a child of the Blood Tribe. Through our work with many of the province’s Indigenous communities, we are very familiar with the ongoing importance of evolving the justice system in this regard.
On September 28th, in an attempt to take strides forward in this regard, the Chief Justice of the Provincial Court of Alberta announced the implementation of the Indigenous Justice Strategy. The Court has jurisdiction to oversee family matters, including private guardianship and all child protection cases in the province. The Strategy includes several key steps, the most significant being opening a new Indigenous Court in Edmonton. Like the Indigenous Court that opened in Calgary in 2019, however, this court will be limited to criminal matters, focused on restorative justice in bail and sentencing hearings.
However, the overall Strategy includes twenty actions which will impact all matters heard by the Court going forward. The Court acknowledged that many strategies were influenced by the Calls to Action identified by the federal Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in 2015. Below, we will review some of the key responses the Court will be implementing and provide an overview of a program aimed at educating Alberta lawyers about the interaction of Indigenous communities and the legal system.
Chief Justice Derek Redman’s announcement noted that the court “did not want…another report. What we wanted was an action document”. As such, the Court has identified a list of 20 responses to the various concerns identified following two years of consultations with Indigenous leaders throughout Alberta and various legal and service organizations familiar with the challenges faced by First Nations in the province. The responses include:
The Law Society of Alberta, the organization which licences and oversees all practicing lawyers in the province, mandated the completion of The Path in 2021. The Path is a continuing education program with a focus on Indigenous Cultural Competency Education created by NVision Insight Group, an organization based in Ottawa and run by Indigenous peoples to support positive change in Canada’s justice systems.
The course consists of five modules, which have been modified to include Alberta-specific content by NVision, in collaboration with the Law Society’s Indigenous Initiatives Counsel. The topics covered are as follows:
The course takes approximately five hours, and all active lawyers in Alberta have until October 20, 2022, to complete it (or qualify for an exemption).
The family law lawyers at Mincher Koeman regularly work with and represent First Nations on child protection matters. We are passionate advocates of the rights of First Nation children to maintain cultural and community connections throughout the child welfare process. We understand how the system works, and we know how to effectively challenge or advocate at each stage. If your family has become by the child intervention process, or you are seeking guardianship of a child who is the subject of an intervention, please contact our office to discuss your options by calling us at 403-910-3000 or by contacting us online.
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