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Understanding Gladue from the Perspective of Indigenous People

Principal Investigator: Dr. Carmela Murdocca

Funder: SSHRC Individual Partnership Engage Grant

Project Description:

Canada's Criminal Code contains a unique sentencing provision that instructs sentencing judges to consider the impact of historical injustices in the biographical circumstances of Indigenous people who find themselves in the criminal justice system. Known as the Gladue principle, this statute requires a consideration of the social and contextual factors that bring an Indigenous person before a criminal court.

Aboriginal Legal Services (ALS) plays a central role in advancing legal and institutional change concerning Gladue including the introduction of the Gladue report in the judicial process. A Gladue report is the result of detailed interviews with the accused (and occasionally family members), exploring issues as wide-ranging as the offender's childhood, his/her relationship with family members and the police, the context of intergenerational trauma as a result of colonial state policies, any abuse witnessed or suffered, experiences of socio-economic disadvantage or educational challenges, any community support mechanisms used in the past, whether they were effective and why, employment background, whether other family members had been convicted of a crime, and any health or addiction issues. The idea behind the Gladue report is that a judge will be more likely to address the unique circumstances of Indigenous offenders if she understands the particulars of what this might mean with reference to the lived experiences of the defendant in question. ALS institutionally facilitates the Gladue report process and prepares Gladue reports for Indigenous people in 22 regional courts in Ontario.

Since its inception more than two decades ago, there has been no study to date that examines the Gladue process and its impacts from the perspective of Indigenous people who have first-hand experience of it. This research will assist ALS in better knowing what impact their reports have on those they are interviewing.