The Council of Yukon First Nations has received funding for a pilot project that will help communities be represented in the legal process by facilitating community impact statements.
The council announced funding on June 10.
“So I’m very excited that now we have an opportunity to close some of the gap once again when it comes to supporting the community and how they’re feeling and how this impacts not only the community dynamic but also the healing process,” said Grand Chief Peter Johnston.
“I’m very excited to see this, much similar to the Gladue project, come to fruition and the benefits of it going forward,” he said.
A Gladue Report is a pre-sentencing report that considers the personal circumstances and context of Indigenous offenders and alternatives to incarceration. The CYFN took over the administration of Gladue reports in 2019.
While the Gladue process can offer mitigation to offenders, executive director Shadelle Chambers said the Community Impact Statement Pilot Project will offer the opportunity for communities to speak about how crime has impacted not just victims but the broader community.
As part of the pilot, the CYFN has hired a writer for a one-year term and formed an advisory committee. This person will be tasked with identifying community members who want to provide information for the report. Individuals are not named in the report.
The impact statement isn’t used as evidence but is a tool available after a trial or guilty plea that can aid a judge in decisions around sentencing.
“We gather the information, we share it with the First Nations, we review it to ensure it reflects the community, we then submit it to the court as a piece of, not evidence, but as a tool for the sentencing,” said Chambers.
The pilot project is in effect from Dec. 2020 through Dec. 2021. So far there have been three community impact statements for major crimes that have impacted Yukon First Nations communities, according to Chambers.
The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights was enacted in 2015 and created the ability for community impact statements to be submitted in court, but few have been used in the Yukon due to a lack of process and funding.
Funding for the one-year pilot project came from the Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust in the fall of 2020 intake for the amount of $96,240.
“In many times, crime and the criminal justice process really creates division in the community. So the community impact statement is one tool for the community to ensure their voice is represented in the sentencing process,” said Chambers. “Our hope is that we would get federal or territorial funding to continue to implement the program. So we’re really kind of just demonstrating need right now.”
Contact Haley Ritchie at firstname.lastname@example.org