The Canadian Justice System V.s. Aboriginal People

Essay, Research Paper

The Canadian Justice System v.s. Aboriginal People

Topic: Be it resolved that the Canadian justice system be significantly changed.

The Canadian justice system has failed the Canadian people. It has

failed the aboriginal people of this nation on a massive scale. The flawed

justice system has been insensitive and inaccessible, and has arrested and

imprisoned aboriginal people in grossly disproportionate numbers. Aboriginal

people who are arrested are more likely to be denied bail, spend less time with

their lawyers, and if convicted, are more likely to be incarcerated.

It is not merely that the justice system has failed aboriginal people;

justice has also been denied to them. For more than a century the rights of

aboriginal people have been ignored and eroded. The result of this denial has

been injustice of the most profound kind. Poverty and powerlessness have been

the Canadian legacy to a people who once governed their own affairs in self-


A significant part of the problem is the inherent biases of those with

decision-making authority in the justice system. However one understands

discrimination, it is clear that aboriginal people have been subject to it.

They clearly have been victims of the openly hostile bigot and they have also

been victims of discrimination that is unintended, but is rooted in police and


Two specific incidents in late 1987 and early 1988 clearly illustrate

this unacceptable discrimination. The first of these was the November 1987

trial of two men for the 1971 murder of Helen Betty Osborne in The Pas Manitoba.

While the trial established that four men were present when the young aboriginal

woman was killed, only one of them was ultimately convicted of any crime.

Following the trial, allegations were made that the identity of the four

individuals who has been present at the killing was widely known in the local


On March 9, 1988, J.J. Harper, Executive Director of the Island Lake

Tribal Council, died following an encounter with a City of Winnipeg police

officer. The following day the police department exonerated the officer

involved. Others, particularly those in the province’s aboriginal community,

believed that there were many questions which had been left unanswered by the

police department’s internal investigation.

These two specific incidents are seen by many as troubling examples of

the manner in which the Canadian justice system is failing aboriginal people.

While the aboriginal people comprise 11.8 percent of Manitoba’s population, they

represent 50 percent of the province’s prison population.

Canada’s treatment of its first citizens has been an international

disgrace. Unless we take every needed step to redress this problem, this

lingering injustice will continue to bring tragedy and suffering to aboriginal

people, and to blacken our country’s name throughout the world.

Supporters of the Canadian justice system might argue that Canada has

the best legal system in the world. How do they explain away the injustices in

the aboriginal communities? Is justice not intended for everyone? Section

15.(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms clearly states: ?Every

individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal

protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination…?. Unless our

Charter has no basis in law, out justice is seriously flawed. Minority groups

in this flawed system have a dim future at best. Our justice system must be

revamped and revised so that it is more equitable, sensitive, and accessible.


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