New Court Debuts On Pelican Lake Reserve

Monday, May 02, 2005 at 14:28



A new court system on the Pelican Lake Cree nation is slowly beginning to take flight.


In 2000, band officials at Pelican Lake attempted to have a Cree court established in their community.


The leaders wanted their residents to have the chance to hear what was happening to them in their own language and to be tried by their own community members.


While that attempt was unsuccessful, a new type of court system opened up on the reserve just last week.


The Pelican Lake Community Holistic Court dealt with five traffic offences committed by local band members.


The charges were read before a Cree-speaking justice of the peace who lives on the reserve, as well as by a local elder.


Terrence Lewis is the Director of Justice at the Agency Chiefs Tribal Council, and one of the people who helped create the court.


He says the old system of having residents tried in Spiritwood — a 30-minute drive south — simply wasn’t working as young offenders were regularly missing court dates and landing in more hot water.


Lewis also says offenders are now held to account more because they are tried before their neighbours and friends, and the proceedings can be done in Cree.


He hopes the court is soon cleared to begin hearing cases involving young offenders and less serious crimes.