An intensive, two-day forum aiming to change the relationship between First Nations peoples and the criminal justice system is coming to Richmond later this month, with former Minister of Justice and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould as the keynote speaker.
The event on April 24 and 25, hosted by the First Nations Justice Council at the Westin Wall Centre in Richmond, hopes to collect guidance from First Nations leaders on how to address overrepresentation of First Nations peoples in the correctional system.
“The crisis of overrepresentation and associated challenges across the criminal justice system are long-standing and long-recognized,” said Doug White, chair of the BC First Nations Justice Council in a press release.
“We have an urgent mandate and imperative to act. The political will and understanding of the necessity to achieve transformative shifts is shared and urgent.”
White pointed to the Colten Boushie trial as an example of “how broken the relationship is between Indigenous peoples and the criminal justice system,” as well as the high proportion of Indigenous peoples in Canadian jails, which he says is at 28 per cent of the overall prison population.
“The B.C. government has committed to co-develop a strategy to make real change, and this forum is central to moving that strategy forward,” White said.
On the first day of the forum, Wilson-Raybould is scheduled to present on the challenges of Indigenous justice in Canada.
Wilson-Raybould has been making national headlines since the start of the year after she and fellow member of Parliament and former cabinet minister Jane Philpott were removed from the Liberal party caucus one week ago, which followed Wilson-Raybould's resignation from cabinet in February, shortly after she was moved out of the justice portfolio.
Wilson-Raybould was the first Indigenous person to hold the position of attorney general and was a first-time federal candidate in 2015 when she won the newly created riding with 43 per cent of the vote. She had previously served in high-ranking roles in Indigenous organizations, including as regional chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations.
In its statement about the forum, First Nations Justice Councils says “in addition to her presentation, Ms. Wilson-Raybould will be honoured for her historic and on-going work and leadership on behalf of Indigenous peoples and all Canadians.”
In 2015, the First Nations Justice Council, formerly known as the British Columbia Aboriginal Justice Council, was formed through resolutions made by the First Nations Summit, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs and the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations.
Earlier this month, representatives from each B.C. community, either the chief or an approved alternate, were invited to attend the forum. While the registration deadline was set for April 5, registrations are still being accepted this week online, here.
With files from Canadian Press