The Canadian Justice System v.s. Aboriginal People

Topic: Be it resolved that the Canadian justice system be significantly changed.

The Canadian justice system has failed the Canadian people. It has
failed the aboriginal people of this nation on a massive scale. The flawed
justice system has been insensitive and inaccessible, and has arrested and
imprisoned aboriginal people in grossly disproportionate numbers. Aboriginal
people who are arrested are more likely to be denied bail, spend less time with
their lawyers, and if convicted, are more likely to be incarcerated.

It is not merely that the justice system has failed aboriginal people;
justice has also been denied to them. For more than a century the rights of
aboriginal people have been ignored and eroded. The result of this denial has
been injustice of the most profound kind. Poverty and powerlessness have been
the Canadian legacy to a people who once governed their own affairs in self-

A significant part of the problem is the inherent biases of those with
decision-making authority in the justice system. However one understands
discrimination, it is clear that aboriginal people have been subject to it.
They clearly have been victims of the openly hostile bigot and they have also
been victims of discrimination that is unintended, but is rooted in police and

Two specific incidents in late 1987 and early 1988 clearly illustrate
this unacceptable discrimination. The first of these was the November 1987
trial of two men for the 1971 murder of Helen Betty Osborne in The Pas Manitoba.
While the trial established that four men were present when the young aboriginal
woman was killed, only one of them was ultimately convicted of any crime.
Following the trial, allegations were made that the identity of the four
individuals who has been present at the killing was widely known in the local

On March 9, 1988, J.J. Harper, Executive Director of the Island Lake
Tribal Council, died following an encounter with a City of Winnipeg police
officer. The following day the police department exonerated the officer
involved. Others, particularly those in the province's aboriginal community,
believed that there were many questions which had been left unanswered by the
police department's internal investigation.

These two specific incidents are seen by many as troubling examples of
the manner in which the Canadian justice system is failing aboriginal people.
While the aboriginal people comprise 11.8 percent of Manitoba's population, they
represent 50 percent of the province's prison population.

Canada's treatment of its first citizens has been an international
disgrace. Unless we take every needed step to redress this problem, this
lingering injustice will continue to bring tragedy and suffering to aboriginal
people, and to blacken our country's name throughout the world.

Supporters of the Canadian justice system might argue that Canada has
the best legal system in the world. How do they explain away the injustices in
the aboriginal communities? Is justice not intended for everyone? Section
15.(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms clearly states: “Every
individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal
protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination...”. Unless our
Charter has no basis in law, out justice is seriously flawed. Minority groups
in this flawed system have a dim future at best. Our justice system must be
revamped and revised so that it is more equitable, sensitive, and accessible.