Gladue writer Josie O’Brien, from left, Council of Yukon First Nations senior justice analyst Chantal Genier, Gladue writer Carol Geddes and CYFN executive director Shadelle Chambers, speak during a justice conference at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre on Feb. 27. (Jackie Hong/Yukon News)

The Yukon now has five Gladue writers, up from three

The Yukon now has a roster of five Gladue report writers, up from three in 2019.

Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN) executive director Shadelle Chambers revealed that number during a panel at CYFN’s conference, “Exploring Justice: Our Way,” on Feb. 27.

The two-day conference, which ended Feb. 28, highlights Indigenous justice practices and possible solutions to address the over-representation of Indigenous people in the Canadian justice system.

Chambers was one of four people on a panel about CYFN’s pilot project to train more Gladue writers in the territory.

Gladue reports explore the personal circumstances of Indigenous offenders, taking into account the impacts of things like residential schools, addiction, mental illness and sexual abuse on the offender’s life and criminal actions. Courts are required to consider Gladue factors when making sentencing decisions. The reports may suggest alternatives to conventional incarceration, such as sending the offender to a healing camp or treatment centre.

The Yukon’s Gladue writer pilot project was originally launched in February 2018 with $530,000 in funding from the Yukon government. It’s scheduled to end this fiscal year.

Originally administered by the Yukon Legal Services Society, the pilot has since been handed over the CYFN.

Chambers said that writers have produced 59 Gladue reports since the pilot began.

About 28 people have participated in the two training sessions held over the past few years, Chambers said, but many chose not to continue on to become qualified Gladue writers after seeing the amount of work, and the kind of work, required.

While the majority of offenders who request Gladue reports go through with them, Chambers said there have been two cases in the pilot’s history where the offenders chose not to continue with the process.

One of the territory’s writers, Carol Geddes, was also on the panel.

Geddes described writing Gladue reports as a challenging process, both for the writers and offenders.

“If anybody thinks this is a get-out-of-jail-free-card, I can assure you, it is not,” she said. “Our clients go through some really soul-searching and agonizing issues when they’re talking to us.”

However, she also said the process and its results are “incredibly gratifying.”

“I think that we’ve heard some incredibly important things today about justice … It truly takes a village and so Gladue is only one part of that village, and it’s so incredibly important that we build on all the parts of the justice village,” she said.

Chambers said CYFN is evaluating what to do next after the pilot ends.

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

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