(l to r): BCMF President Keith Henry, BCMF Treasurer Betty Fisher and LABC CEO Mark Benton shortly after signing the MOU during a virtual ceremony on November 18, 2020
Legal Aid BC (LABC) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the BC Métis Federation (BCMF) today to support the coordination of supportive justice services for Métis people in British Columbia.
The MOU establishes a process for relationship building between LABC and BCMF, creating opportunities for collaboration between the two organizations. It also defines a framework to determine mutual priorities and interests for justice services for Métis people, and how to best support each other’s mandates through a collaborative relationship.
LABC has been working with the BCMF to advance Gladue rights and to reduce the number of Métis people in the criminal justice and child welfare systems.
“We are pleased and honoured to form this official partnership with the BCMF,” said LABC CEO Mark Benton, QC. “At LABC we are committed to designing and delivering services that meet individual needs and the needs of particular communities. Our services become more effective when they are informed by the perspectives of partners like BCMF.”
LABC and the BCMF have shared goals in reducing the disproportionate number of incarcerated Métis people, and supporting families in crisis. These goals are to be reached by increasing the use of community-based options whenever possible, by using restorative processes, and by incorporating Indigenous legal traditions into the justice system to ensure more culturally appropriate outcomes.
BCMF President Keith Henry said the MOU signals an important new relationship for the federation’s members who require supportive justice services.
“Sadly, we see Métis people with higher rates of incarceration and challenges when dealing with children and family development services,” said Henry. “This signing is the first step as we create a new Métis justice strategy in BC that aligns with key partners such as LABC.”
LABC, the provider of legal aid in BC, has a dedicated Indigenous Services Division. The Indigenous-led division focuses on ensuring legal aid services meet Indigenous peoples’ needs in BC.