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First Nations Court
The First Nations Court of British Columbia is a Gladue court located in New Westminster, BC. The court handles:
- bail hearings,
- sentencing hearings, and
- related child protection matters.
You may be able to have your case transferred to First Nations Court if:
- you self-identify as Aboriginal (if you think of yourself as Aboriginal), AND
- you're pleading guilty to a criminal offence, or
- you've been found guilty of a criminal offence.
First Nations Court is open one day each month.
Kamloops now has its own First Nations Court. The court will sit once a month. Duty counsel (a lawyer who gives free legal advice) will be available. The court will take a restorative justice approach to sentencing.
First Nations Court focuses on community and healing. First Nations Court takes a restorative justice approach to sentencing.
A sentence is the punishment that the judge feels is appropriate for you.
Before deciding on your sentence, the judge will consider:
- your background,
- your current needs, and
- what resources are available to help you.
A restorative justice approach to sentencing means that:
- The judge will work with you and your community to come up with your sentence.
- The goal of your sentence will be to strengthen and heal both you and your community.
- To come up with a healing plan that works for you, you and your lawyer will work with:
- the judge,
- Crown counsel (government lawyer),
- Aboriginal community members, and
- your family.
First Nations Court focuses on making sure everyone involved in the case has a chance to be heard, including:
- your lawyer,
- your family,
- members of your community,
- the victim, and
- the victim's family.
Other people may speak at the court, including:
- social workers,
- court workers,
- probation officers, and
- police officers.
Everyone will be invited to sit around a table to talk about the case. Each person will be given a chance to speak. After each person has spoken, the judge will work with everyone at the table to come up with a healing plan.
A healing plan:
- focuses on helping you, your community, and the victims of your crime to heal and move on; and
- will help you to address the problems that got you into trouble with the law in the first place. For example, you may be required to participate in drug or alcohol counselling.
You will be asked to:
- take responsibility for your actions,
- work on addressing the issues that got you into trouble with the law in the first place, and
- return several times to the court, so the judge can see your progress with your healing plan.
For more information about having your case transferred to the court, call the First Nations Court duty counsel at 1-877-601-6066 (no charge from anywhere in BC). (Duty counsel are lawyers who give free legal advice on or before the day of court.)
The First Nations Court duty counsel can:
- help you apply to the court,
- help you find a lawyer, and
- help you find someone to write your Gladue report.
LSS also has a legal information outreach worker available to help you at the court.
It’s your choice whether you apply to have your matter heard in First Nations Court. Talk to your lawyer or the First Nations Court duty counsel about what’s best for you.
First Nations Court is in New Westminster. The street address is listed below. You can see where the court is located on a map here.
First Nations Court
651 Carnarvon Street
New Westminster, BC
Below are some more links to resources related to First Nations Court.
LSS online and print resources
Are you Aboriginal? (LSS fact sheet)
Gladue Primer (LSS booklet)
Are you Aboriginal? Do you have a bail hearing? Or are you going to be sentenced for a crime? (publication of CLEO — Community Legal Education Ontario)
First Nations Court of BC, article by the Honourable Judge Marion Buller Bennett
Native Courtworker and Counselling Association of BC — This association provides culturally appropriate services to Aboriginal people involved in the criminal justice system.
What if I don't live near New Westminster?
You can still have your matter heard in First Nations Court even if you live outside the Lower Mainland. You will need to be able to travel to New Westminster, or get special permission to participate by phone or video-conference.