Law professor calls on province to fund training of Gladue report writers
This is the second part of a two-part series looking at the processes behind Gladue reports in Saskatchewan. Read part one here.
University of Saskatchewan law professor Glen Luther says the province needs to do more to implement a training system for Gladue report writers.
He says the reports are important for judges to learn about Indigenous offender's background when deciding a sentence.
“They are not mandated by the Criminal Code, but they’ve proven very useful,” Luther says.
Gladue reports delve into the circumstances and upbringings of, and colonialism’s effect on, Indigenous offenders.
There are calls for more to be done surrounding Gladue reports: a training program for writers, more awareness, and more requests from offenders and lawyers.
“It’s so rare that it even gets asked for here,” Gladue report writer Christine Goodwin says. “Gladue reports pretty much need to be done. It’s the best way to get the information to the courts.”
Goodwin says she’s been told she’s the only writer in Saskatchewan. The province says it’s unknown how many there are. The Native Law Centre at the University of Saskatchewan says there are more writers, but it doesn’t know how many.
Push for change
Luther and Goodwin would both like to see provincial and federal funding to help implement a training program so there are more Gladue writers in Saskatchewan. Luther says the province needs at least 20 writers in Saskatchewan and a certification program to train writers.
Saskatchewan doesn’t offer formal training in Gladue report writing, unlike provinces like British Columbia and Ontario.
“At the moment there’s no infrastructure around it and if the government, either the federal government or the province doesn’t step forward to do it, I’m not sure how they think it’s ever going to happen,” Luther says.
The province says it trains probation officers on Gladue factors when writing a pre-sentence report, which is different than a Gladue report. Justice Ministry spokesperson Drew Wilby says funding a training program is not being considered right now, especially with an upcoming provincial budget.
“We feel those Gladue factors are being presented in an efficient way,” Wilby says. “We always review our systems to ensure we have what we feel is the best system and we’ll continue to do that.”
Luther says Gladue reports are part of a larger need of a restorative justice system, as they lay out alternatives to jail based on the offender's specific needs.
“It's hugely important that we realize jail is not going to make our communities safer,” he says.
Luther says there needs to be more alternatives to incarceration so offenders can be rehabilitated. For example, an offender with addictions being sentenced to a treatment centre, he says.
“We’ve got to reform the system and I think we have the chance that that’s going to happen but people have to stop thinking that jail is the answer to everything.”
The Gladue Project
The Native Law Centre recently launched the Gladue Project — a one-year project that aims to educate and provide resources to those in the justice system about Gladue reports.
Gladue Project research officer Michelle Brass says she is working on gathering information and creating a database about Gladue reports that will be accessible to Gladue report writers.
“The project itself is meant to reach as many people in the criminal justice system in whatever capacity,” Brass says. “(People) who need to access information either to draft reports or to know what goes into a report.”
The project will also train people to be Gladue report writers, although Brass doesn’t know how many people would be trained at this time.
The Law Foundation of Ontario is funding the project for one year.