Gladue principles

Métis woman.
Gladue principles 
Effective April 1, 2021, the Gladue reports program in BC is administered and managed by the BC First Nations Justice Council (BCFNJC). To find out about Gladue reports or to request a Gladue report, contact BCFNJC.

In the Canadian criminal justice system, judges must take into consideration the individual circumstances of the person before them in court to determine a fit and fair sentence.

If you identify as Indigenous and are charged with a crime, the judge must apply Gladue principles when you're in a criminal court. Gladue principles are a way for the judge to consider the unique circumstances (experiences) of Indigenous peoples.

These unique circumstances include the challenges of colonization you, your family, and community faced and resisted as Indigenous people, and continue to affect you today. These challenges include racism, loss of language, removal from land, Indian residential schools, and foster care. These challenges are called Gladue factors.

In 1999, in a case called Gladue, the Supreme Court of Canada said that colonialism creates challenges for many Indigenous people, and they are more likely to be sent to jail. The criminal justice system failed Indigenous people. Gladue principles try to address these failures and make sure judges don’t repeat the same mistakes that add to discrimination.

Judges must consider Gladue factors when they make decisions about you. Judges must consider options other than jail to help you address the challenges you face. For example, you might participate in a restorative justice program to help you work with those your crime affected and repair the harm done.

Gladue principles also require judges to make decisions that are appropriate to your particular Indigenous heritage or connection. This means judges must consider:

  • your community’s perspective on the situation, their needs, and their suggested alternatives to jail. Your community can be the Indigenous community where you live or come from, but it’s also your support network or the people you interact with. If you live outside an Indigenous community and aren’t connected to one, you still have a community.
  • the laws, practices, customs, and legal traditions of your Nation or the Nation where the alleged offence took place.
  • ways of making decisions that are sensitive and appropriate to your culture.

For example, your community could provide the court with a suggestion they deem to be meaningful to the community and that they believe would help you. They can also help to support you with the suggested alternative to jail.

The judge might still decide to send you to jail. If you are sent to jail, the judge must respect Gladue principles to decide how long you'll be in jail and your probation.

Canadian courts have found that Gladue principles apply at:

  • bail
  • sentencing
  • appeals
  • parole board
  • hearings to determine parole ineligibility in sentencing
  • extradition
  • mental health review boards
  • professional disciplinary decisions
  • long-term or dangerous offender hearings

Gladue principles can also apply in other situations, such as negotiations and sending someone to an alternative measures program. In this program, the person accepts responsibility for their actions and takes steps to repair the damage without going to court.

If you're charged with a crime

If you're charged with a crime

You have the right to get a lawyer. Call Legal Aid BC immediately to find out if you qualify for a free lawyer.

604-408-2172 (Greater Vancouver)

1-866-577-2525 (elsewhere in BC)

Legal Aid BC can also give you free legal information. If you don't qualify for a lawyer, you might be able to get free legal advice. The person you speak to on the phone will let you know your options.

How do Gladue principles apply to my criminal case?

How do Gladue principles apply to my criminal case?

It's your right to have Gladue applied to your case. Tell your lawyer or the court as soon as possible that you're Indigenous. Your lawyer should make sure that Gladue principles are considered. Even if you don't have a lawyer, the judge must still apply Gladue principles.

The judge will want to know:
  • about you, your family, and your community/Nation
  • what kinds of community or healing options, where appropriate, are available to you
  • options to support you in overcoming any challenges you're facing
  • any laws, customs, or traditions from your Nation that would apply to your situation

You, an advocate, or a lawyer can give this information to the court in a Gladue submission or a Gladue report. The judge must respect Gladue even if you can't give a Gladue submission or a Gladue report.

Before deciding on your sentence, the judge needs to think about:
  • the background (the story) of you, your family, your community, and your culture
  • what Gladue factors might have played a part in you getting in trouble with the law (for example, colonization, racism, foster care, abuse, poverty, Indian Residential School and Indian Day School)
  • your current needs and strengths, and the best options to address the challenges you face
  • where you can get help for the challenges that brought you to court
  • perspectives from your family and community/Nation about healing, where appropriate, and ways to repair and address the harm done

You can tell the judge about this in a Gladue submission or a Gladue report.

Before deciding on your bail conditions, the judge needs to think about:
  • the background surrounding your current situation and circumstances (such as your work situation, living circumstances, family connections, prior convictions and breaches of conditions, etc.)
  • how Indigenous law, customs, culture, beliefs, and traditions can support a successful bail release plan
  • whether the community or other resources can and should provide support to ensure a successful release

You can tell the judge about this in a Gladue submission or a Gladue report.

The judge might order or receive the following information to guide their decision:
  • Gladue submissions (oral or written statements about you as an Indigenous person)
  • forensic psychiatric assessments
  • pre-sentence report with Gladue section, written by a probation officer
  • Gladue report, written by a Gladue report writer
If the judge decides to send you to jail, they must still consider your personal circumstances to decide:
  • how much time you have to spend in jail
  • how long your probation will be once you're released from jail
  • conditions you need to follow on your probation

What is First Nations/Indigenous Court?

What is First Nations/Indigenous Court?

If you accept responsibility for a crime and plead guilty, you might be able to go to one of BC’s First Nations/Indigenous Courts for sentencing.

For more information, see First Nations/Indigenous Courts.

Page last updated: Wednesday, July 5, 2023  4:00 pm hrs

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BC First Nations Justice Council — Legal services for Indigenous people in BC, including a Gladue report program

More help

More help

Legal help

Department of Justice Indigenous Justice Program — Alternatives to mainstream justice processes

First Nations and Métis Outreach Program (The Law Centre, University of Victoria) — Free legal help — Victoria

Native Courtworker 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 (elsewhere in BC)

Access Pro Bono Law Clinics — Free legal help

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Lawyer Referral Service — Helps you find a lawyer to take your case — Call 604-687-3221 (Greater Vancouver) or 1-800-663-1919 (elsewhere in BC)

PovNet — Information about poverty issues and links to organizations that can help

Province of British Columbia — Restorative Justice Programs in BC

UBC Indigenous Community Legal Clinic — Free legal help on various legal matters — Call 604-684-7334 (Greater Vancouver) or 1-888-684-7334 (elsewhere in BC)

Upper Skeena Counselling & Legal Assistance Society — Free legal help — Hazelton

Victoria Native Friendship Centre — Free legal clinic — Call 250-412-7794

Community support and services

Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation — See their Guide to Indigenous Organizations and Services in British Columbia for organizations that can help

Crisis support and counselling

Hope for Wellness Help Line — Free, experienced, and culturally competent help — Call 1-855-242-3310 (24 hours every day)

Indian Residential School Survivors Crisis Line — Call 1-800-721-0066 (24 hours every day)

Métis Crisis Line — A service of Métis Nation British Columbia  — Call 1-833-638-4722 (24 hours every day)

Health and wellness

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