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Gladue report writer says Saskatchewan lags behind other provinces
This is part one of a two-part series looking at the processes behind Gladue reports in Saskatchewan.
Christine Goodwin says she believes she’s the only person in Saskatchewan writing Gladue reports.
The former lawyer said Wednesday the province is lagging behind others in Canada in its treatment of the Gladue principle, which examines the circumstances and upbringings of, and colonialism’s effect on, Indigenous offenders.
“The information that I get is just toxic,” Goodwin said of interviewing offenders. “It’s toxic to the core. These are not people that have lived a rosy life. It’s the worst of the worst.”
Judges in Canada examine Gladue reports— which originated from two Supreme Court decisions in 1999 and 2012 — when deciding bail or a sentence for Indigenous offenders.
Goodwin does not consider the reports “a get out of jail free card,” but says they objectively lay out alternatives to incarceration and may result in a slightly reduced sentence.
“Because you can’t blame someone for being raised that way, so their moral culpability is a lower threshold than an average person,” she said.
She wants to see more reports written in the province, but said she alone wouldn’t be able to keep up if demand increased.
“I’d like to do them all. I just can’t physically do them all,” she said.
An ideal number of report writers in Saskatchewan would be 10, according to Goodwin.
She also wants more lawyers and offenders to know Indigenous offenders have the right to a Gladue report, and for them to be reflected judges' decisions. Goodwin says she believes only one Gladue report she has wrote was reflected in a sentence.
How Saskatchewan stacks up
Goodwin said she’s written about 25 reports — some of which can take about a year — since 2015. The number she wrote last year was fewer than 20.
By contrast, in the last eight months of 2017, 647 Gladue reports were completed in Alberta, according to the Alberta government.
Forty writers work on the reports in Alberta, and, according to Manitoba’s justice ministry, staff in Manitoba’s probation services department complete most Gladue reports in that province.
No national certification
Saskatchewan’s government isn’t able to verify how many Gladue report writers are in the province because, it said in a statement, no nationally recognized certification program exists.
The Ministry of Justice fulfills its obligations to the Gladue Provision in the Criminal Code, the statement read.
“Saskatchewan courts primarily rely on information provided through pre-sentencing reports. Aboriginal Court Workers, Legal Aid and Probation Officers often play a part in providing information on potential Gladue factors in court cases."
New probation officers are trained in Indigenous awareness, treaty rights and interviewing and writing pre-sentence reports that include specific Gladue factors, according to the ministry. Additional training is planned for all probation officers who write pre-sentence reports to ensure Gladue factors are addressed in a thorough and consistent way, as well.
Saskatchewan doesn’t offer formal training in Gladue report writing, unlike provinces like British Columbia and Ontario.
Defence lawyer wants improvements
Seventy-five per cent of adults incarcerated in Saskatchewan are Indigenous, which is the highest of all provinces, according to 2015-2016 numbers from Statistics Canada.
Goodwin said she’d like Gladue reports to help “reduce the overall incarceration rate of Indigenous people,” and Saskatoon defence lawyer Brian Pfefferle said he’d like to see the reports accessed more often.
“I hope that there’s more access to Gladue reports,” Pfefferle told reporters Tuesday after one of his clients, a teen who killed a baby, was sentenced as an adult. “I think they are very helpful both at the bail stages and at the sentencing stages.”
A Gladue report was ordered in the teen’s case, and an updated report was filed the evening before the judge delivered his sentence.
Pfefferle said in some instances lawyers forego a Gladue report due to delays, or use a writer from outside of Saskatchewan. He also said lawyers use submissions in place of a report, which, according to him, aren’t ideal in providing a complete background of an offender.
Crown prosecutor in the case Jennifer Claxton-Viczo said more report writers would be reasonable, based on the number of Indigenous offenders in Saskatchewan.
“I suspect that the numbers warrant it, whether that will happen or not, I can’t comment on that,” she said.
Part two of CTV Saskatoon’s series on Gladue reports airs Thursday.