A Winnipeg lawyer says he’s tired of seeing aboriginal offenders being given bail conditions they can’t live by.
William Marks says for years, offenders were told to check in at a certain building in Winnipeg, as part of their weekly bail supervision.
The problem was, many aboriginal offenders were new to the city, didn’t know their way around or couldn’t pay the money to get to the designated site.
As a result many were thrown back into jail.
He says it didn’t make sense because the vast majority of the offenders weren’t a risk to re-offend.
Marks gives another example of rules he says don’t work.
He points out many offenders are currently being told to live at one address while their case is before the courts.
This is a big problem for many reasons.
Some have complicated family situations while Marks says others grew up in many different homes because they were in the care of child and family services:
“So by making them live in certain addresses and then ultimately them breaching by not living where they’re supposed to be then you’re criminalizing behavior that’s really a result of their upbringing which is out of their control.”
Currently, judges in Canada are required to take into account the backgrounds of aboriginal offenders, better known as the “Gladue Factor”, during sentencing.
Things like their upbringing, whether they were abused, and whether they went to residential schools are a few examples.
The purpose of the measure is to try and reduce the vast over-representation of aboriginal people in the justice system.
Marks says Manitoba prosecutors recently mentioned they’re willing to accept that in Manitoba, Gladue does begin at the bail level.
He says he has ordered the transcript of this case for future reference.
He says the duty of defense lawyers now is to bring this point up at every bail hearing.
The reason for this approach is because there is no set directive for judges to currently follow and it’s being left mainly to interpretation.