The law courts in Whitehorse. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)

Council of Yukon First Nations to host justice conference

‘Exploring Justice: Our Way’ will examine justice issues through a First Nations lens

The Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN) will be holding a two-day conference this week to discuss justice issues faced by First Nations people in the territory.

Titled “Exploring Justice: Our Way,” the conference, scheduled to take place at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre April 5 and 6, is intended to bring together Yukon First Nations and people who work with First Nations citizens in the criminal justice system, said Shadelle Chambers, executive director of CYFN.

“First Nations in the Yukon are over-represented in the criminal justice system in all areas, whether that’s courts or community-supervised programs or even on the victims side or corrections, so what we wanted to do is … (look) at different models across Canada and seeing what are some of those best practices and what we can do in the Yukon,” Chambers said.

“Just learning from each other is what I think brings people together at these conferences and makes it really worthwhile, it’s the sharing and, ‘Oh, if they can do it, maybe we can do it.’ Or, we really struggled with culturally-relevant programs for the folks in the WCC, so if the federal system can do it, I’m sure we can do it here in the Yukon.”

Among the topics the conference will touch upon are restorative justice, access to justice, reintegration and the correctional system.

Speakers from the territory include Yukon Legal Aid executive director David Christie, Yukon RCMP Chief Supt. Scott Sheppard, Kwanlin Dün First Nation community safety officer program coordinator Gina Nagano, former territorial court Chief Judge Barry Stuart and Victim Services director Lareina Twardochleb.

There will be presentations from a number of Outside speakers including David Loukidelis, who’s currently undertaking an inspection of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre (WCC). Darla Pratt, an elder and spiritual advisor at the Fraser Valley Correctional Centre in British Columbia, and Benjamin Perrin, who co-authored the MacDonald-Laurier Institute’s report card on Canadian criminal justice systems that ranked the Yukon’s as the country’s worst, are also scheduled to speak.

The conference’s timing was partially chosen to accommodate Loukidelis’ schedule as his inspection wraps up, Chambers said, adding that he’s been “very forthcoming” with wanting to work closely with Yukon First Nations and have their experiences and concerns addressed in the report he will be producing.

“We knew David wasn’t going to be able to get to every community and … we did want to ensure that he hears from a variety of different people involved in the criminal justice system here in the Yukon,” Chambers said.

Although the conference is primarily geared towards First Nations government employees and First Nations citizens interested in the criminal justice system, Chambers said anyone interested in looking at justice through a First-Nations lens is welcome to attend.

“Exploring Justice: Our Way” is a free event. Interested participants can register online at cyfn.ca/events/exploring-justice-our-way.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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