R v GH, 2020 NUCJ 21

The Chief Justice of the Nunavut Court of Justice dismissed an application for a state-funded Gladue report. The Court cautioned that a Gladue report writer from outside the territory may not be adequately familiar with Nunavut’s unique circumstances and resources, and Inuit court workers can provide much of the necessary information, as can the predominately Inuit probation officers working in Nunavut. The Court left it to the Government of Nunavut to determine whether a program for full Gladue reports ought to be created. 

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The Applicant requests that the Court order the production of a Gladue report. He suggests that formal Gladue reports are necessary if this Court is to apply the remedial provisions of section 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code in the manner and spirit directed by the Supreme Court of Canada (R v Gladue, [1999] 2 CNLR 252 [“Gladue”]; R v Ipeelee, [2012] 2 CNLR 218).

In Canada, judges are required to consider the circumstances of Indigenous offenders who are before them to be sentenced. Indigenous offenders have the right (unless it is expressly waived) to the presentation of Gladue information and application of Gladue principles at their sentencing hearing. However, they do not have the right to the production of a publicly funded Gladue report in advance of sentencing.

In many jurisdictions across Canada there are Gladue programs in which independent and knowledgeable writers interview offenders and other community members, producing Gladue reports that educate sentencing judges. Nunavut is not one of those jurisdictions. To date, the Government of Nunavut has not implemented a program to connect Indigenous offenders with knowledgeable Gladue writers. Nothing formally prevents an offender in Nunavut from funding the production of a Gladue report privately, but this almost never occurs due to the associated cost.

Because Nunavut lacks a publicly funded Gladue writing program, Gladue information about Indigenous offenders in Nunavut usually comes before the court via Defence submissions, pre-sentence reports, and occasionally comments directly from offenders. Counsel for the Applicant argues that these sources of information are insufficient and that a Gladue writer would provide a qualitatively superior overview of the systemic factors that have played a role in bringing the offender before the court. Gladue writers are typically either members of the Indigenous communities in which they serve or they have strong social and professional connections to those communities. Because there is no Gladue writing program in Nunavut, there are no Gladue writers here with those same community connections that are so key for southern Gladue writers. Pre-sentence reports, however, are prepared by probation officers, many of them Inuit living in communities in which they serve.

Non-Inuit legal professionals in Nunavut are not without access to knowledgeable cultural and community resources. The Court will leave this discussion to more knowledgeable players within the Legal Services Board of Nunavut and the Government of Nunavut. The Court cautions against the assumption that a Gladue writer experienced in serving First Nations and Métis communities will easily translate those skills to an Inuit context. A pan-Indigenous approach to government programming is ineffective and does not meet the specific needs of Inuit. Recommendation 16.28 of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Final Report, notes that this failure to provide Inuit-specific services cripples Gladue principles.

When the Government of Nunavut implements a Gladue report writing program employing empathetic peers based in Nunavut communities as writers, the Court will be pleased to trust those report writers to fully enlighten the court. The colonial court system in Nunavut can only benefit from further and better cultural and historic information about the individuals who appear before it and will continue to rely on the expertise of Indigenous Court Workers, Inuit elders, resident counsel, and resident probation officers.

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