Over 300 people gathered online to learn about Indigenous people and the law, in a virtual event hosted by Legal Aid Alberta lawyers and staff whose work focuses on Indigenous Courts and restorative justice.
LAA lawyers Grace Auger and Jessica Buffalo and justice navigator Stephen Shirt connected the historic and ongoing injustices against Indigenous people and the intergenerational trauma those injustices and genocidal acts have had to ways the justice system is responding to create a more equitable system.
The hour-long webinar is now available online.
The three delivered their presentation as news stories about the discoveries of mass graves of children at former residential schools were making headlines around the world, and a day after the Government of Alberta pledged $8M for research into unmarked burial sites at residential schools in the province.
Calls to action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Girls and Women calls to justice are having some impact – but not enough. Buffalo, who works at the Calgary Indigenous Court, said her hope is that all courts become “indigenized” by looking at historic, cultural and personal histories of an accused person and finding ways to restore them as contributing members of a healthy society.
The webinar detailed the workings of the Calgary Indigenous Court, and the courts at Siksika and Tsuu’tina Nations.
Webinar attendees registered from across the country – from Vancouver B.C. to Trenton, N.S., and from Honolulu, Hawaii, and Pune, India.
“This was a very timely and valuable presentation today, particularly in light of recent discovery of so many unmarked graves at residential school sites in Canada,” said one.
Another, working in a forensic setting, said: “this has been invaluable to me as I work to better serve my clients, thank you.”
Presenters also felt the importance of educating the public and other legal professionals. That they were able to present to so many people is a sign that society is beginning to come to terms with the history Indigenous people have endured in Canada.
“Ten years ago we couldn’t have done this,” said Auger. “I’m really happy we’re able to.”
If you are in need of support with respect to residential schools in Canada, contact the National Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Calls to Action
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Girls and Women report
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
Ask A Lawyer: Indigenous Courts and restorative justice
Fighting the ‘fear of the legal system’ for the Indigenous community