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First Nations Court
The First Nations Courts of British Columbia are Gladue courts located in:
The courts handle:
- bail hearings,
- sentencing hearings, and
- related child protection matters.
You may be able to have your case transferred to a First Nations Court if:
- you self-identify as Aboriginal, AND
- you're pleading guilty to a criminal offence.
Each First Nations Court is open one day each month.
Duty counsel is available in each of the courts. LSS also has a legal information outreach worker available to help you at the court in New Westminster.
First Nations Court focuses on community and healing. First Nations Court takes a restorative justice approach to sentencing.
A restorative justice approach to sentencing means that:
- The judge will work with you and your community to come up with your sentence.
- The goal of your sentence will be to strengthen and heal both you and your community.
- To come up with a healing plan that works for you, you and your lawyer will work with:
- the judge,
- Crown counsel,
- Aboriginal community members, and
- your family.
Before deciding on your sentence, the judge will consider:
- your background,
- your current needs, and
- what resources are available to help you.
First Nations Court focuses on making sure everyone involved in the case has a chance to be heard, including:
- your lawyer,
- your family,
- members of your community,
- the victim, and
- the victim's family.
Other people may speak at the court, including:
- social workers,
- court workers,
- probation officers, and
- police officers.
Everyone will be invited to sit around a table to talk about the case. Each person will be given a chance to speak. After each person has spoken, the judge will work with everyone at the table to come up with a healing plan.
A healing plan:
- focuses on helping you, your community, and the victims of your crime to heal and move on; and
- will help you to address the problems that got you into trouble with the law in the first place. For example, you may have to participate in drug or alcohol counselling.
You will be asked to:
- take responsibility for your actions,
- work on addressing the issues that got you into trouble with the law in the first place, and
- return several times to the court, so the judge can see your progress with your healing plan.
For more information about having your case transferred to the court, call the New Westminster First Nations Court duty counsel at 1-877-601-6066 (no charge from anywhere in BC).
The First Nations Court duty counsel can:
- help you apply to the court,
- help you find a lawyer, and
- help you find someone to write your Gladue report.
It’s your choice whether you apply to have your matter heard in First Nations Court. Talk to your lawyer or the First Nations Court duty counsel about what’s best for you.
Below are some more links to resources related to First Nations Court.
LSS online and print resources
Are you Aboriginal? (LSS fact sheet)
Gladue Primer (LSS booklet)
Ckúcwentn First Nations Court flyer — First Nations Court Kamloops
Are you Aboriginal? Do you have a bail hearing? Or are you going to be sentenced for a crime? (publication of CLEO — Community Legal Education Ontario)
First Nations Court of BC, article by the Honourable Judge Marion Buller Bennett (page 14)
Native Courtworker and Counselling Association of BC — This association provides culturally appropriate services to Aboriginal people involved in the criminal justice system.
What if I don't live near New Westminster?
You can still have your matter heard in First Nations Court even if you live outside the Lower Mainland. You will need to be able to travel to New Westminster, or get special permission to participate by phone or video-conference.