The province has partnered with the BC First Nations Justice Council (BCFNJC) to create Indigenous justice centres throughout BC with the intention of improving access to supports and helping individuals navigate the justice system more easily.
Indigenous justice centres have recently opened in Prince George, Prince Rupert and Merritt.
“For too long, Indigenous peoples have been over-represented in our criminal justice system,” said David Eby, Attorney General.
“Our Indigenous Justice Strategy, authored in partnership with Indigenous peoples, emphasizes the importance of these new centres as a first step along that path, offering culturally appropriate supports to ensure better outcomes for everyone.”
While each centre will offer unique support services tailored to the local Indigenous community, each location will offer access to:
- legal advice and representation for criminal and child protection matters;
- advocacy and support in dealing with agencies such as the police and Ministry of Children and Family Development;
- referrals to relevant agencies and services such as counselling or employment support;
- information towards better transitions from jail and integration into the community; and
- restorative justice options to better support and address the needs of those impacted by a crime.
BCFNJC plans to develop as many as 15 centres throughout the province, and is currently working with the government of BC to determine those locations. These centres are part of the larger First Nations Justice Strategy, which was launched in March of this year.
“The Indigenous Justice Centre in Merritt represents two First Nations coming together, Syilx and Nlaka’pamux, to serve all Indigenous peoples in the Nicola Valley,” said Brian Holmes, Nicola Valley Community Justice Services Society president.
“We work with Elders from every community, and we will rely on their guidance to address priorities such as working closely with Corrections Services to support transitions to home communities.”