Justice for Aboriginal People in Canada

When the white man first seen us, when they first said, “Well, there’s something wrong with these people here. They don’t have no religion. They have no judicial system. We have to do something for these people.” I guess that must have been what they thought because they totally screwed up what we already had.

They introduced new religion and there was nothing wrong with our old religion. They just didn’t understand it. We had our own ways of teaching our children, like the Elders and everything. There was nothing wrong with that way of teaching children. They just didn’t understand it.

The same thing with our judicial system. We had that judicial system and the white people, when they came here, they didn’t see that. They said, “These guys have nothing. We have to introduce all these different things to them so they can be one of us.” That’s exactly the problem that we have.

Chief Philip Michel, Brochet.

I was appalled to learn that a man had been hired [as an interpreter] who does not speak any native Aboriginal language at all and it still exists. And again, I ask these questions; how has this man been able to interpret for an Aboriginal person who cannot speak or understand English? How many Aboriginal people have been denied the right to defend themselves because this man is not capable of understanding and interpreting their testimony? How many Aboriginal people have been convicted because this man was unable to translate a Crown attorney’s questions accurately so that they understand what they were being asked; therefore, unknowingly, and perhaps falsely, incriminating themselves? And how many Aboriginal people have pleaded guilty out the sheer futility of what seems to be a hopeless situation?

Aboriginal community member, Barbara Whitford, of Portage la Prairie, tells The Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission that Aboriginal People “have a right to understand what is happening to them” in the justice system. Read the Commission’s website to learn more about the differences and functions of the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal justice systems in Canada and North America.