Aboriginal Legal Aid in BC

Aboriginal legal rights at bail and sentencing hearings
Gladue rights

If you identify as Aboriginal you have rights under the Criminal Code. These rights are called Gladue rights.

Gladue rights encourage judges to take a restorative justice approach to sentencing. This means that the judge must try to come up with sentence that will help you and your community to heal.

Gladue rights also apply when the judge is setting bail.

To find people who can help you with Gladue rights, see Who can help.


If you've been charged with a crime

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

Legal Aid

604-408-2172 (Greater Vancouver)
1-866-577-2525 (elsewhere in BC)

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

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Gladue rights apply to all Aboriginal peoples

Gladue rights apply to all Aboriginal peoples:

  • First Nations, including status Indians and non-status Indians;
  • Inuit; and
  • Métis.

It doesn't matter whether you live on reserve or off reserve.

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How can Gladue rights help you?

Gladue rights are a way judges make sure you're treated fairly. Gladue rights also encourages judges to come up with a sentence that will help you and your community heal.

When sentencing or setting bail, the judge:

  • must consider all options other than jail. This is often called a community sentence;
  • must consider a community sentence that will help you to address the issues that got you into trouble with the law in the first place. For example, you may get a community sentence that involves getting counselling or completing a drug program; and
  • if you have to go to jail, the judge must still apply Gladue rights when deciding how long your jail sentence will be.

It's your right to have Gladue rights applied to your case. Your lawyer should do everything possible to make sure your Gladue rights are respected. Even if you don't have a lawyer, the judge must still apply Gladue rights.

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How do I get Gladue rights applied to my case?

You must tell the court as soon as possible that you're Aboriginal. The judge will want to know about you, your family, and your community. The judge will also need to know about what kinds of community sentences are available to you.

You can give this information to the court in a Gladue submission or a Gladue report. The judge must consider your Gladue rights even if you can’t provide a Gladue submission or a Gladue report.

Gladue submission

A Gladue submission is given to the court either orally (out loud) or in writing. If you have a lawyer, they usually make your submission. But you and your lawyer can decide which one of you will tell the court about your personal history.

In your Gladue submission, you also tell the court about the challenges you face as an Aboriginal person, called Gladue factors. Gladue factors are events that affect Aboriginal peoples in general and affected you, your family, or your community. For example, are you, your parents, family, or community Indian residential school survivors? Have you been the victims of other forms of discrimination? Have you been the victims of other forms of abuse?

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Gladue report

A Gladue report gives detailed information about your background to:

  • the judge,
  • Crown counsel, and
  • your lawyer.

You, an advocate, or a trained Gladue writer can prepare your Gladue report. If you're working with a legal aid lawyer, Legal Aid may be able to provide a trained writer to prepare your report for free.

In this video, Gladue report writer Anisa White explains restorative justice, Gladue rights, and Gladue reports.

What if I don't want to talk about my personal information in court?

Some of the information in your Gladue submission or report may be private or sensitive. You may not like to talk about it. If you don't want this information discussed out loud in court, you can ask your lawyer to give it in writing to the judge and the Crown counsel.

Find out more

Who can help?

Find an advocate

BC211 — Free confidential referrals to help and information — Call 211

BC Association of Friendship Centres — Find a friendship centre in your area

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

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

Legal information

Aboriginal community legal workers — Give legal information and limited advice services

Legal information outreach workers — Give legal information and provide referrals

Legal help

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