Calgary Indigenous Court
The Calgary Indigenous Court (CIC) was established in 2019 to provide a culturally relevant, restorative, and holistic system of justice for Indigenous individuals, including offenders, victims and the community harmed by an offender’s actions. The CIC is a response to the unique challenges and circumstances of the Indigenous people. It seeks to address the issue of overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the justice system and is a step forward in implementing recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as well as the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Woman and Girls National Inquiry (MMIWG) Report.
The CIC focuses on a restorative justice approach to crime through peacemaking and connecting accused people to their cultures and communities. It deals primarily with bail and sentencing hearings, and is open to any offender who is Indigenous and chooses to have matters addressed in the CIC. When an offender is sentenced to probation, a Healing Plan specific to the offender may be included in the probation order. Healing Plans use identified Indigenous community support agencies to assist in reintegrating offenders into the community, and, where appropriate, also encourage offenders to learn about and reconnect with their Indigenous heritage. A ceremony may be held in the CIC to acknowledge the successful completion of a probation order and the Healing Plan.
The CIC sits every Wednesday beginning at 9:00 a.m. in Courtroom 1800 of the Calgary Courts Centre. Courtroom 1800 is a specialized courtroom which was specifically designed to support an Indigenous approach to law. It is modelled after a teepee and allows participants to sit in a circle at the same level. Courtroom 1800 has an eagle feather for taking oaths (which is available in all Alberta Courts) as well as special ventilation to allow for smudging during traditional ceremonies.
The CIC utilizes dedicated Justices who are either Indigenous or experienced in Indigenous Restorative Justice, a designated Indigenous Crown Prosecutor, designated duty counsel and Indigenous Legal Counsel, Restorative Justice Peacemakers, Traditional Knowledge Keepers, Indigenous Court Workers and community support agencies.
Agencies involved with the CIC include the Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary, Calgary Legal Guidance, the Aboriginal Friendship Centre, the Sunrise Healing Lodge, Indigenous Mental Health, Native Counselling Services of Alberta, Homefront, the John Howard Society, and the Calgary Police Service as well as several other support agencies.
The Calgary Indigenous court is very cognizant of the Gladue and Ipeelee decisions and applies those cases, as well as section 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code, in all matters that come before the Indigenous court, including dispositions that have a healing plan component and judicial release orders.
The court has a dedicated bail worker who prepares bail release plans for Indigenous offenders and a dedicated peacemaker who facilitates peacemaking sessions involving an offender and a victim.
A smudge is conducted by an Elder in advance of every court sitting, as well as an opening prayer once court opens for the day. The Elder is available to meet with an offender during court to offer cultural guidance and support.