WINNIPEG — The federal government is looking to decrease disproportionate rates of crime, incarceration and, most importantly, victimization among Indigenous peoples across Canada by working with the Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO).
During a meeting with SCO last March 6, 2019, the now Minister of Justice and Attorney General David Lametti talked on priorities within the First Nations Justice Strategy Program.
“(SCO) restoration of traditional systems of justice addresses decades of systemic failure. The SCO Justice Strategy is a model which has proven positive outcomes. This is a key initiative for healing and redress for our citizens,” Grand Chief Jerry Daniels at SCO said.
Lametti announced $689,160 over the span of three years will go towards the program, which is federally funded through the Indigenous Justice Program.
“Working with Indigenous communities such as the Southern Chiefs’ Organization in Manitoba to assume greater responsibility for the administration of justice in their communities helps modernize Canada’s criminal justice system and advances reconciliation,” Lametti said. “Based on the understanding that crime is a violation of people and relationships, the use of restorative justice models, where appropriate, can contribute to a more peaceful and safe Canadian society.”
The program, which is based on a restorative justice model, reflects the traditional ways in which Indigenous peoples dealt with these sorts of issues. The program is also hoped to promote safer communities while reducing the over-representation of Indigenous people involved with Canada’s criminal justice system.
According to SCO, the program is meant to aid offenders in reclaiming responsibility for their actions against victims and offers the victim a pathway to healing. Restorative justice programs across Canada often use time-honored traditions which has guided Indigenous peoples toward a peaceful, safe communities for time immemorial.
In Canada, those involved in the Indigenous Justice Program-funded programs were 43 per cent less likely to re-offend after one year and 37 per cent less likely to re-offend after a total of eight years when compared to those who did not participate in the program.
SCO was established in 1999 and now represents 34 southern First Nation communities in Manitoba. The program now runs in Sagkeeng, Long Plain, Waywayseecappo, Pine Creek, Sandy Bay and Pinaymootang. The program offers an alternative to the punitive, mainstream justice system through a community-based restorative justice system.