If you self-identify as Aboriginal you may be able to have your bail or sentencing hearing in one of BC's First Nations Courts.
First Nations Court is different from other provincial courts. It focuses on community and healing. It makes sure that everyone involved in your case has a chance to be heard. The goal of your sentence will be to strengthen and heal you and your community.
For more information about applying to First Nations Court, see Who can help.
BC's First Nations Courts are Gladue courts. They're located in:
Each First Nations Court is open one day each month. See the lists on the Provincial Court Problem Solving Courts page to find the exact dates for each location.
The courts handle:
You may be able to have your case transferred to a First Nations Court if:
If you participated in the First Nations Court in New Westminster between November 1, 2006, and June 30, 2013, an Aboriginal research team at UBC would like to hear from you. See their flyer for more information.
First Nations Court focuses on community and healing. First Nations Court takes a restorative justice approach to sentencing.
A restorative justice approach to sentencing means that:
Before deciding on your sentence, the judge will consider:
It's a very good idea to get legal advice on or before the day of court. Duty counsel can give you free legal advice about:
Duty counsel can help you if:
Duty counsel can also represent you at a bail hearing. If there's time, they can help you with a guilty plea.
First Nations Court duty counsel is available. First Nations Court duty counsel does everything listed above. They can also:
For more information, call 604-601-6074 (Greater Vancouver), or 1-877-601-6066 (no charge from anywhere in BC).
A legal information outreach worker is available to help you at the court in New Westminster. They can give you legal information and refer you to other services.
First Nations Court focuses on making sure everyone involved in the case has a chance to be heard, including:
Other people with a role in the court may also speak, including:
Everyone involved in your case will be invited to talk about the case in the courtroom. Each person will be given a chance to speak. After everyone has had a chance to speak, the judge will work with everyone to come up with a healing plan.
A healing plan:
The court in New Westminster uses the concept of the medicine wheel as a guide for the healing plan. Each plan includes emotional, spiritual, physical, and mental components.
You will be asked to:
It’s your choice whether you apply to have your matter heard in First Nations Court. Talk to your lawyer or the First Nations Court duty counsel about what’s best for you.
You can apply to have your matter heard in North Vancouver if your charges arise in:
If you don't live in the areas above but you already have another case open in North Vancouver, you may be able to have your case transferred to the First Nations Court.
To apply, you or your lawyer can ask at the courthouse about having your case transferred.
For more information about having your case transferred to Duncan, Kamloops, or New Westminster, call 604-601-6074 (Greater Vancouver), or 1-877-601-6066 (no charge from anywhere in BC).
BC211 — Free confidential referrals to help and information — Call 211
BC Association of Friendship Centres — Find a friendship centre in your area
Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation — See their A Guide to Aboriginal Organizations and Services in British Columbia for organizations that can help
PovNet — Information about poverty issues and links to organizations that can help
Aboriginal community legal workers — Give legal information and limited advice services
Legal information outreach workers — Give legal information and provide referrals
Access Pro Bono Law Clinics — Free legal help
Carole James, MLA, Community Office — Free legal clinic — Call 250-412-7794
Department of Justice Community-based Justice Programs — Alternatives to mainstream justice processes
First Nations and Métis Outreach Program (The Law Centre) — Free legal help — Victoria
First Nations Court duty counsel — Give free legal advice about having your matter transferred to First Nations Court and the charges against you — Call 604-601-6074 (Greater Vancouver) or 1-877-601-6066 (no charge outside Greater Vancouver)
Native Courtworkers and Counselling Association of BC — Culturally appropriate services to Aboriginal people involved in the criminal justice system — Call 604-985-5355 (Greater Vancouver) or 1-877-811-1190 (no charge outside Greater Vancouver)
Bella Coola Legal Advocacy Program — Free legal help — Bella Coola
UBC Indigenous Community Legal Clinic — Free legal help on various legal matters — 604-684-7334 (Greater Vancouver) or 1-888-684-7334 (call no charge)
Upper Skeena Counselling & Legal Assistance Society — Free legal help — Hazelton
Victoria Native Friendship Centre — Free legal clinic — Call 250-412-7794