Kookum Knew ... Exploring Historical Contexts: Aboriginal People, the Justice System, and Child Welfare

Shanne McCaffrey

Abstract


This paper concerns the inclusion of a “Gladue Report” in Aboriginal child welfare cases in Canada. A Gladue Report is named after a criminal trial in Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, involving a Cree/Métis woman, Jamie Gladue. During the trial, the defence referred the court to Section 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code that allows a judge to take into consideration the historical context pertaining to an accused Aboriginal person. This section was added to the Code in 1996 in response to the gross overrepresentation, as a percentage of the Canadian population, of Aboriginal people in the justice system. Using this section as an additional tool of analysis, the judge and the court can consider the unique experiences, context, and circumstances of the Aboriginal person’s life, factors that may have played a role in bringing this person before the court. Providing valuable historical context in the life of a child, family or community, the Gladue Report is quickly evolving into an important assessment tool in criminal sentencing, as well as in child welfare cases. Often, the wisdom keepers – the grandmothers and grandfathers in a community – keep these historical memories and stories. They are proving invaluable in supplying insight, information, and understanding, not only in court cases, but in relating the story of the broader dynamic of human interaction and discourse that has clashed and thundered on this land for the past 300 years.

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International Journal of Child, Youth & Family Studies

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© University of Victoria
Victoria, BC Canada

 

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