All courts must uphold Gladue principles

Nov 27, 2015 By Matthew Friedberg
Toronto criminal lawyer Matthew Friedberg says  the comments of an Ottawa justice of the peace may show a disregard for  the way the Supreme Court of Canada has directed the justice system to  consider aboriginal peoples’ backgrounds.

“What is concerning about this is the justice of the peace did not appear to have an appreciation of Gladue principles and seemed to be somewhat dismissive of the issue," he tells

Christopher Jacko, a 25-year-old Ojibway man from a northern Ontario reserve, appeared before Ottawa Justice of the Peace Louisette Girault, reports APTN National News

To be released on bail from an Ottawa jail where he’d spent the last three months on assault and breach charges, he wanted to explain to the justice of the peace that he had suffered “horrific” abuse, neglect and was dealing with the generational impact of residential schools. But Girault wasn’t interested in hearing another “sad” story, reports the network. 

“What is he going to say? … I’ll be a good boy; I won’t have any knives; I won’t take any alcohol or drugs? I am assuming,” said Girault, according to court transcripts obtained by APTN National News.

The Supreme Court has given clear direction in R. v. Gladue, [1999] 1 SCR 688, on how courts should treat aboriginal offenders. This matter enshrines the principles that courts must take into account when assessing these cases. 

Ultimately, the Gladue principles direct the court to consider an offender’s history and how it relates to the impact of residential schools and other forms of colonization, says the article. 

It means that the courts can take a restorative approach so that there is a focus on healing those affected by the criminal act, including the offender. This approach, in line with traditional aboriginal justice, can sometimes allow for a solution with no jail time, which helps reduce the drastic over-representation of aboriginals in Canadian jails, Friedberg explains.


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