K’atlodeeche First Nation members will have the chance to contribute to their own justice system, with changes hopefully to be implemented in the coming year.
“Everything comes down to safety,” said band manager Jaimie Forsey Graham. “There are so many situations where people have to consider their own safety and that’s what we’re asking our members to tell us about.”
The project comes as a result of federal funding from the Department of Justice, intended to help build capacity in aboriginal communities and create partnerships between them and mainstream justice systems. With results of consultations due by the end of March, Forsey Graham said she hopes to see changes implemented in the following year.
“It’s a co-operative approach to building a safer community,” she said. “This is the first time KFN has applied for this program and we’re really looking forward to seeing the results.”
The first step is the creation of a survey, work with which Doug Lamalice has been tasked. Along with talking to various groups in the community, he has also been knocking on doors to speak to individuals about their perceptions of law and justice.
“We can’t ignore it any longer,” he told The Hub. “We have to take care of our people.”
Although it’s a labour intensive process, said Lamalice, he is eager for the opportunity to take an active role in the development of justice programs in his community.
“It comes along with self-government,” he said. “The world’s eyes are on us as aboriginal people in Canada right now and we have to have a say in our own justice.”
Forsey Graham said the questions on the survey would likely be quite general to start.
“One question could be ‘what kind of position would you like to see in place to build safety in the community?’” she said. “We’re hoping this process will create more employment opportunities for our members here too.”
Lamalice said he hopes the whole project will also help develop a new understanding of what justice means in KFN. He said the prevailing attitude he is now coming up against isn’t a good one.
“Most people I ask tell me that justice to them means cops and jail,” he said. “I really want this to change that.”