The past 30 years have brought a lot of change in the Court with the recognition that the traditional adversarial process is not necessarily the most appropriate for every process, or for every population. As a result, different special courts have been set to deal with cases in a therapeutic and culturally appropriate manner.
The Court holds special hearings in different indigenous communities. At the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation, a restorative court model started in 1993 which promotes community involvement in the court process. A local justice committee provides recommendations for sentencing options as well as assistance to the court in identifying appropriate community-based alternatives.
At the Siksika Nation, the Provincial Court of Alberta sits on the reserve and has been served since 1998 by a Judge of Aboriginal heritage and a dedicated Crown prosecutor from the Calgary Crown Prosecutors’ office. This arrangement permits the Crown prosecutor to form a close working relationship with the Nation and supports the provision of culturally sensitive prosecution services.
The first Aboriginal Court in Canada was the Tsuu T’ina First Nation Court (or Peacemaking Court), established in October 2000. The Tsuu T’ina Court has jurisdiction over criminal, youth, and bylaw offences committee on the Tsuu T’ina reserve. The Tsuu T’ina Court is a marriage of two separate systems: the Alberta Provincial Court and the Peacemaker process, which work together in a unique way.
The Provincial Court of Alberta started a Drug Treatment Court in 2005. The program is intended to break the cycle of criminal behavior driven by drug addiction, by offering participants a chance to avoid prison and complete a drug treatment program in the case of non-violent offences. The program is comprehensive and aims to reduce the number of crimes committed to support drug dependence through judicial supervision, drug abuse treatment, frequent drug testing, incentives, sanctions and social services support. Calgary and Edmonton have a Drug Treatment Court program.
A specialized Domestic Court started in Calgary in 2000 (specialized docket) and 2005 (specialized court process). Domestic violence courts recognize the unique characteristics of violence between family members. They emphasize the importance of early and effective intervention in abusive situations in order to increase victim safety and allow for a greater chance of offender rehabilitation. These courts work with social service agencies and workers to provide support services for victims and require offenders to take responsibility for their actions, not only through regular legal sanctions, but also through monitoring and counselling.