The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) is speaking out in support of some recently introduced federal legislation.

The federal Liberal government has announced plans to put forward legislation which will create an independent commission that will review potential cases where someone has been wrongfully convicted of a crime. CAP National Vice Chief Kim Beaudin said he believes the new body will have the potential to make a real good impact.

“Its going to be a game changer in a real positive way,” he said.

The vice chief added he was especially happy to see the federal government agreeing to set aside resources to help the new body do its work. The new commission will have the ability to compel witness testimony and would also be able to compel the production of documents. The independent commission would not have the power to exonerate people, but could refer cases for a new trial or back to an appeals court for review.

During his remarks to media Thursday in Ottawa, federal justice minister David Lametti said the new commission would remove barriers for people who are over represented in the country’s justice system including Indigenous people. Beaudin said Canada’s justice system as it operates currently does discriminate against Indigenous people and believes the establishing of a convictions review commission will be helpful in combating the issue.

“We know the system is stacked up against Indigenous people and I think this will help quite a bit,” he said.

Beaudin said there are cases he is aware of where Indigenous people have pleaded guilty to crimes they have not committed, adding they are represented by legal aid lawyers who may not have sufficient resources to mount a proper legal defense.

“This new commission could probably do a much better job then legal aid,” he said.

Looking forward Beaudin said the legislation which would create the independent commission still needs to go through the legislative process before it becomes law. He said he is really hoping to see the legislation pass.

“If it doesn’t get done, that’s one of my biggest fears, it’ll just die on the order paper,” he said.

(CAP National Vice Chief Kim Beaudin. Photo by Michael Joel-Hansen.)