History and Background:

Historically, First Nations have been victims of the Canadian justice system having suffered from the systemic racism compounded in the ‘delivery of justice’. This has been demonstrated through systemic issues such as racial profiling by enforcement agencies, over representation of First Nation men, women and youth in the correctional facilities, and support programs not culturally competent. In addition, Canada’s judicial legislation and policies have fallen short sighted of addressing the root causes of crime and have failed to institute adequate measures that would support prevention methods for First Nation citizens.

The following information indicates the current approach undertaken by First Nations in Ontario to address the issues identified above.

The Justice Department was established in response to the growing need for representation and advocacy on issues relating to justice for First Nations in Ontario. Rooted historically in Resolution 95/25 – Support for Justice Development Worker Proposal that was passed at the 21st All Ontario Chiefs Conference in June, 1995, the resolution provided for the hiring of justice development workers to serve as both ‘a resource and a facilitator for community justice development.’ The product of demands from First Nation citizens for a more culturally relevant and effective justice system, and a growing awareness of pre-existing forms of First Nation legal systems, the Chiefs in Assembly resolved themselves to:

– Establish regional justice councils or justice committees that would oversee the development of the community justice agenda;
– Assess the justice needs of individual communities;
– Articulate the community values that any system of First Nation justice developed should uphold;
– Identify the most promising justice programs and models for community application and;
– Develop justice pilot projects.

By 2005 there had emerged within the Chiefs of Ontario a Justice and Correctional Steering Committee that had drafted a Terms of Reference for its operation and identified its role as one that would create and/or facilitate dialogue, policy development, and strategies related to justice. After considering the terms, leadership then adopted Resolution 05/08 – Justice and Correctional Steering Committee –Terms of Reference, approving both the establishment of the Steering Committee, and its mandate. This served to further strengthen then promising efforts to fully integrate a Justice Policy area within the Chiefs of Ontario, and provides the basis for the work that continues on today.

Back to the Justice Sector

Current Initiatives:

Aside from ongoing work on our two current portfolios, our most recent mandate derives from the directives enclosed in Resolution 10/13 – Establishment of a Justice & Corrections Leadership Roundtable, carried at the Special Chiefs Assembly in November, 2010. After having outlined some of the many challenges facing First Nation peoples and communities the Chiefs in Assembly directed the Chiefs of Ontario to work towards the establishment of an ad hoc political roundtable with the Political Confederacy and Ministers from the Ministry of the Attorney General, Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, and the Ministry of Children and Youth Service. Areas to be addressed included: First Nation representation in adult correctional systems in the north; increasing support for the prevention of violence against women; expanding the Healing Lodge concept; services for First Nation youth in conflict with the law; a strategy to address the underlying issues with First nation youth gangs; and other issues deemed to be a priority by First Nation leadership.


This sector embodies a number of topics and activities ranging from the over-representation of First Nations in the Canadian justice system, the review of legislative initiatives, to the study of alternative approaches to justice and healing. The principle objective of our work is to provide First Nations with a voice in regards to the correctional issues that affect them.


The Ontario Aboriginal Justice Strategy (OAJS):

In 2005, the province of Ontario released its Aboriginal policy document “A New Approach to Aboriginal Affairs.” Its stated intent was to ‘chart a new course’ by providing the basis for a “constructive, co-operative relationship with the Aboriginal peoples of Ontario…that is sustained by mutual respect and that leads to improved opportunities and a better future for Aboriginal children and youth.” Included as part of the new approach was a series of provincially designated ‘new approach initiatives,’ of which the Aboriginal Justice Strategy was but one of eight.


Violence Against Aboriginal Women:

In Ontario, First Nations leadership recognized that First Nations women are the most at risk group in Canada for issues related to violence. Through Resolution 10/31- Government of Canada to Re-Establish its Support for Sisters in Spirit), which was adopted at the Special Chiefs Assembly in November, 2010, leadership made eliminating violence against women a top priority.


Ipperwash Inquiry:

On September 6th, 1995 Anthony “Dudley” George, an unarmed man was shoot by the Ontario Provincial Police and died. He and other First Nation men, women and children had been occupying their ancestor territory which had been appropriated by the federal government for military purposes. The land which was occupied had been transferred by the federal government to the provincial government and was used as a provincial park. This was done after the federal government had promised the people of Kettle and Stony Point it would return the land it had appropriated.


Ipperwash Inquiry Priorities and Action Committee (IIPAC):

In 1995, the Ipperwash Provincial Park was the site of a occupation by the First Nations people of Wiiwkwedong and Aazhoodena (Kettle and Stoney Point) where in the course of events; Dudley George was shot and later died. On November 12, 2003 a commission of inquiry was established with Sidney B. Linden as commissioner. The mandate of the inquiry was two-fold. Part one would ‘inquire into and report on events surrounding the death of Dudley George’ while part two would ‘make recommendations directed to the avoidance of violence in similar circumstances.’ The final report was released on May 31, 2007.

See the IIPAC newsletter Dibaajimowin, meaning ‘communicate,’ here.


Complications and Moving Forward: Where the Tables are At:

The Treaty Commission of Ontario:

Background: “Today, the 133 First Nation communities are located within the artificial boundaries of the Province of Ontario; within these boundaries also exists a complex interrelationship of treaty obligations, federal-provincial division of powers, statutory regimes, inherent jurisdiction, and constitutionally protected Aboriginal and Treaty rights; and a relationship where much reconciling must take place if peaceful coexistence is to be achieved.” (source: Chiefs of Ontario final submission to the Ipperwash Inquiry, Part 1 –July 2006).


Land Rights and Interests:

Consultation and Accommodation:

Background: Resolution 05/45- Protocol for Consultation and Accommodation directed the Chiefs of Ontario to work on a draft consultation and accommodation protocol based on the decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada, Haida and Taku River in consultation with the First Nation PTO’s, Grand Councils, and the Independent First Nations. Resolution 06/44- Protocol for Consultation and Accommodation–Phase II created the Consultation and Accommodation Technical-Legal Committee to undertake the development of the protocol in accordance with a work plan, coordinated by the Chiefs of Ontario.


Resource Revenue Sharing:

Resolution 08/11- First Nations Resource Revenue Sharing, adopted at the 34th All Ontario Chiefs Conference declared the negotiation of a regional resource revenue sharing arrangement with the current government be treated as a leading priority of the Ontario Regional Chief and the Political Confederacy; authorizing the appointment of a Task Force for this purpose.


First Nations Jurisdiction:

First Nation Policing:

Background: The Ipperwash Inquiry stated that “First Nations police services have a [questionable] existence in law. Although the federal Indian Act provides that a band council may establish a police commission, it does not set out a framework of governance, funding, police standards, and appointment and powers of officers. Nor does the Ontario Policing Act apply to First Nations policing services, beyond providing for the appointment and powers of constables.” In light of this, the report recommended that “federal, provincial and First Nation governments should commit to developing a secure legislative basis for First Nation Police Services” which recognizes them as essential services as opposed to enhanced services, which they are currently considered.


Jurisdiction Research:

The objective here is to facilitate exploratory discussions regarding First Nations governments’ and provincial jurisdiction with an eye toward clarifying patterns of overlap and conflict stemming from competing claims to governing authority. The topic of jurisdiction has not been deemed a priority by the government of Ontario; however it remains a priority for First Nations. Additionally, the Premiere of Ontario and the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs have made a political commitment to commence discussions on jurisdiction after the provincial election in October 2011.


Building Capacity:

Reconciliation Fund:

The Ipperwash Inquiry recommendations called for the government of Ontario to “establish and fund an Ontario Aboriginal Reconciliation Fund, modeled on the First Nation New Relationship Trust fund in British Columbia. Its purpose would be to improve the capacity of First Nations…to participate in many land claims, treaty, or aboriginal policy and consultation processes underway in the province.” Instead, on May 15, 2008, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Michael Bryant announced the New Relationship Fund, which was unilaterally developed by the Ontario government.


Heritage and Burials:

The Final Report of the Ipperwash Inquiry provided recommendations that focused on greater First Nation participation in policies that deal with heritage, burial and sacred sites. Since then a working group has been established with representatives from First Nations and Ontario ministries including Tourism and Culture, Small Business and Consumer Relations, Municipal Affairs and Housing, and Aboriginal Affairs.


Foundational Documents:

– Resolutions structuring COO work:

o Mandates to participate
— Resolution 97/04 Support for Dudley George Public Inquiry carried at the Ontario Chiefs’ Special Assembly, October 14-16, 1997, in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
— Resolution 04/77 Ipperwash Inquiry – Part Two carried at the Special Chiefs Assembly, November 9-11, 2004 in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
— Resolution 08/05 Ipperwash Inquiry Final Report – Implementation carried at the Special Chiefs Assembly, February 7, 2008 in Fort William First Nation Traditional Territory.o Mandate to the Political Confederacy (PC)
— Resolution 08/17 Ipperwash Inquiry Priorities and Action Committee carried at the 34th All Ontario Chiefs Conference, June 3-5, 2008 at Red Rock Indian Band.

o Mandate to work on priorities and how to work on them
— Resolution 08/22 Ipperwash Inquiry – New Relationship Fund carried at the 34th All Ontario Chiefs Conference, June 3-4, 2008 at Red Rock Indian Band.
— Resolution 08/46 Treaties Implementation carried at the 34th All Ontario Chiefs Conference, June 3-4, 2008 at Red Rock Indian Band.
— Resolution 08/65 Creation of a Chiefs Advisory and Technical Committees in the Area of the Treaty Commission and Reconciliation Fund carried at the Special Chiefs Assembly, November 18-20, 2008, Toronto Ontario.
— Resolution 08/76 Remembering Dudley George and the People of Aazhoodena, carried at the Special Chiefs Assembly, November 18-20, 2008, Toronto Ontario.
— Resolution 08/80 Inclusion of Language in Key Activities carried at the Special Chiefs Assembly, November 18-20, 2008, Toronto Ontario.

o More recent political directives
— Resolution 09/09 Establishment of a Treaty Commission of Ontario carried at the 35th All Ontario Chiefs Conference, July 7-9, 2009, at Batchewana First Nation.
— Resolution 10/11 Resource Benefits/Revenue Sharing carried at the Special Chiefs Assembly, November 23-25, 2010, Toronto, Ontario.
— Resolution 10/12 An Approach to Treaties Within Ontario carried at the Special Chiefs Assembly, November 23-25, 2010, Toronto, Ontario.
— Resolution 11/04 Treaties – Unifying Our Approach carried at the Chiefs Special Assembly, April 12-14, 2001, Toronto, Ontario.
— Resolution 11/05 Creating a Vision for First Nation Policing Services carried at the Special Chiefs Assembly, April 12-14, 2011, Toronto, Ontario.
— Resolution 11/08 Resource Revenue and Benefit Sharing carried at the Special Chiefs Assembly, April 12-14, 2011, Toronto, Ontario.

Priority Area: