First Nations court comes to city
A new initiative at the Kamloops Law Courts aimed at crafting more appropriate sentences for First Nations offenders officially got off the ground on Monday, March 4.
The Ckucwentn (Kamloops) First Nations Court is the third court of its kind in B.C., following similar programs in the Lower Mainland.
“We have closely watched the First Nations courts in New Westminster and North Vancouver and we recognize the success that these two courts are experiencing through this healing-focused approach,” said Kamloops provincial court Judge Stella Frame, who will be one of two local judges overseeing the court.
“We strongly believe that the community of Kamloops will experience the benefit from a First Nations court and we are grateful to have received a great deal of support in this initiative.”
On its first day, the court dealt with three files.
The court’s goal is to apply a First Nations perspective in sentencing native offenders, using holistic and restorative approaches.
The judges will be from the provincial-court level, meaning the court has no jurisdiction over offences that would otherwise have to be heard in B.C. Supreme Court.
The court will only take guilty pleas and will require the offender to acknowledge responsibility.
Proceedings will likely include elders, victims and family members — not unlike a traditional native-sentencing circle.
Frame said it’s anything but a loophole for offenders looking for a lighter sentence.
“The choice to go before a First Nations court to undertake a healing plan is not one to be taken lightly,” she said.
“It takes a true commitment from the accused to rebuild their life and become a productive member of the community.
“It takes hard work and effort from the offender and it takes the support of the community. We believe strongly that this initiative will have positive results for all the people of Kamloops.”
The Kamloops First Nations court will sit at least one day per month. A grand-opening celebration is slated for Aug. 12.