The B.C. Prosecution Service has revised its guidelines for Crown prosecutors when assessing charges and release conditions for Indigenous people, demanding further consideration for racial discrimination as a background to criminal offences.
The new guidelines affect charge assessment, bail and adult probation decisions.
“The status quo is failing Indigenous persons,” says the service’s new Indigenous justice framework document, released Tuesday. “Colonialism, displacement and forced assimilation have contributed to their overrepresentation in all parts of the criminal justice system in Canada. Bias, racism and systemic discrimination continue to aggravate this unacceptable situation. These facts must inform every consideration, decision or action we take in relation to Indigenous persons.”
The update comes a decade after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in a case called R v Gladue that Indigenous offenders should be treated differently in sentencing. The case is considered a landmark, as the highest court directed that Indigenous people’s aboriginal heritage and connection in sentencing.
In the 1999 B.C. case, Jamie Tanis Gladue pleaded guilty to manslaughter for stabbing her common-law husband after celebrating her 19th birthday drinking beer with friends, including the victim, whom she believed was having sex with her sister.
Gladue was sentenced to three years in prison, and was released on day parole after serving six months. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the trial judge and B.C. Court of Appeal judges did not adequately consider alternatives to prison, partly because Gladue and the victim were not living on reserve.
The B.C. Prosecution Service also cited R v Ipeelee, a 2012 decision from the Supreme Court of Canada: “The history of colonialism, displacement and residential schools in Canada has translated into lower educational attainment, lower incomes, higher unemployment, higher rates of substance abuse and suicide, and higher levels of incarceration for Indigenous persons.”
Prosecutors also received other policy updates, including a revised policy for transmission of HIV during sexual acts and bail conditions in cases of intimate partner violence.