BC’s 7th Indigenous sentencing court will open in Williams Lake in April 2020.
That was the announcement made today by Provincial Court Chief Judge Melissa Gillespie.
Punky Lake Wilderness Society was one of several organizations that started working on the proposal for it 6 to 7 years ago, and Executive Director Samantha-Joe Dyck said she is super excited by the news and what it will mean.
“This is huge in Williams Lake, there’s an over-representation for First Nations people in the area so I feel like the Indigenous Court will bring a voice back to the offenders that come to court and it will also give the Elders from the communities a chance to be involved to create the healing plans with the offenders”.
Dyck said this will help the offenders create their healing plans and be accountable to it because if they don’t complete it they are accountable to their elders and that’s huge in the First Nation culture.
Even though the process has taken years to get here, there’s still work yet to be done according to Dyck.
“We are in the process of just ensuring that our traditions are going to be put into the court whether that be when the offenders, when they graduate out of the program that we do a Blanketing Ceremony, if we do a Blanketing Ceremony like the other courts, ensuring what we utilize in the community as healing making sure that those resources are there. I feel like right now we’re just trying to tie up loose ends like that. Last week we just selected our ten Elders and we’re going to another selection in January of the New Year”.
In May 2020 the court will begin sitting monthly at the Williams Lake courthouse.