THE ONTARIO ABORIGINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM (OAJS)
In 2005, the province of Ontario released its Aboriginal policy document “A New Approach to Aboriginal Affairs” (attached). 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.
According to the Strategy, the province of Ontario committed to addressing the concerns of First Nation leaders regarding the specialized justice needs of their communities, “particularly in the areas of prevention, intervention, reintegration, and relapse prevention.” Throughout, emphasis was applied within the strategy on prevention for children and youth, alongside efforts at promoting community safety. Ultimately, the initiative was an opportunity for the Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG), in conjunction with First Nation communities, organizations, and the relevant government ministers, to design and implement ‘an integrated policy framework related to Aboriginal justice.’
The inaugural meeting of the OAJS was held in April 2005 wherein First Nation representatives formed an Aboriginal Caucus to discuss how they would proceed in the development of the Strategy. In October 2005 a ‘terms of reference’ was created and a work plan devised for provincial consideration. It consisted of a proposal to move forward using a two-pronged approach that considered both i) aboriginal models of justice; and ii) the administration of the Canadian justice system. Pursuant to this, the Political Confederacy directed the Chiefs of Ontario on May 30, 2006 to host a conference on Indigenous Justice in order to delve deeper into the themes mentioned above This conference will be taking place once funding has been secured.