Brian Holmes, president, Nicola Valley Community Justice Services Society has said that the Indigenous Justice Centre in Merritt represents two First Nations coming together – Syilx and Nlaka’pamux – to serve all Indigenous peoples in the Nicola Valley. We work with Elders from every community, and we will rely on their guidance to address priorities such as working closely with Corrections Services to support transitions to home communities.
A partnership between the Province and the BC First Nations Justice Council (BCFNJC) is creating Indigenous justice centres throughout B.C., improving access to supports and helping individuals more easily navigate the justice system.
“For too long, Indigenous peoples have been over-represented in our criminal justice system,” said David Eby, Attorney General. “Our Indigenous Justice Strategy, authored in partnership with Indigenous peoples, emphasizes the importance of these new centres as a first step along that path, offering culturally appropriate supports to ensure better outcomes for everyone.”
Indigenous justice centres have recently opened in Merritt, Prince George and Prince Rupert. While each centre offers unique supports tailored to the local Indigenous community, individuals are able to access:
- legal advice and representation for criminal and child protection matters;
- advocacy and support in dealing with agencies such as the police and Ministry of Children and Family Development;
- referrals to relevant agencies and services such as counselling or employment support;
- information towards better transitions from jail and integration into the community; and
- restorative justice options to better support and address the needs of those impacted by a crime.
“We are driven by the idea of justice through self-determination,” said Douglas White III (Kwulasultun), chair, BCFNJC. “Our model is to ensure the Indigenous justice centres reflect the priorities and unique needs of First Nations in each respective region. The Indigenous justice centres are a transformative pillar of the First Nations Justice Strategy that we expect will make a significant difference in the experiences of Indigenous peoples with the justice system.”
The Province is currently working with BCFNJC to determine locations for the other centres throughout B.C, with the council planning to develop up to 15 centres over the coming years.
“This partnership with the BC First Nations Justice Council is a strong example of the work we are doing in collaboration with Indigenous communities across B.C. to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” said Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. “As we continue to work towards a more inclusive and just society, these Indigenous justice centres will play an important role in ensuring that Indigenous voices and perspectives are meaningfully reflected.”
These centres are part of a broader First Nations Justice Strategy that was launched in March 2020. This strategy was created in consultation with First Nations communities throughout B.C and reflects their vision and priorities to transform B.C.’s justice system.