Province handing over Indigenous court program to First Nations communities
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First Nations communities are taking over the delivery of the Indigenous Court Work Program in Manitoba.
The Progressive Conservative government announced Tuesday that it has signed service delivery agreements with Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, Southern Chiefs’ Organization and the Manitoba Métis Federation to begin transferring the program to Indigenous communities.
The program provides services for Indigenous people involved in the justice system “to obtain fair, just, equitable and culturally relevant support,” a provincial government press release said.
It takes a holistic approach to court service by supporting accused people and their families while providing timely connections to resource agencies and court officials, the release said.
Services in Indigenous languages are available to allow better understanding of charges and the criminal justice system. Indigenous court workers also ensure victims and families are connected with victim services, including assistance for families of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and LGBTTQ+ people, it said.
“First Nation peoples have long experienced systemic racism and discrimination within the criminal justice system,” SCO Grand Chief Jerry Daniels said in a separate news release.
He said the court workers will work alongside SCO’s established community justice workers who focus on diversion, reintegration and prevention. SCO will have three First Nation court workers located across southern Manitoba in Portage La Prairie, Selkirk, and Dauphin and will attend circuit court locations, including those in Bloodvein, Berens River and elsewhere within SCO member Nations.
The province said it is also finalizing an agreement with Island Lake Tribal Council, and is providing grants of more than $1 million a year for two years to the four organizations.
The province is committed to working with its partners to address the over-representation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system, Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen said in the release.
“We know that supporting Indigenous-led solutions is imperative to making meaningful progress on the path to reconciliation, and we look forward to ongoing meaningful reciprocal and respectful relationships that ensure appropriate services and supports are being delivered.”