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News Release

Department of Justice Canada

The Government of Canada is renewing its relationship with Indigenous peoples, based on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership.

Yesterday, on behalf of the Honourable David Lametti, Arif Virani, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, spoke at the closing of the Exploring Indigenous Justice Systems in Canada and around the World symposium. This two-day event fostered dialogue on the important work of rebuilding Indigenous systems of justice and brought together Indigenous leaders, Indigenous law students, experts, and government officials from across Canada and around the world. The goal was to generate ideas on what Indigenous justice systems could look like in Canada, and how they could be integrated into Canada's justice system.

Indigenous people are overrepresented in the criminal justice system and the ability of Indigenous communities to enforce and adjudicate their own laws is central to reconciliation. It can help produce better outcomes for Indigenous peoples who are often marginalized in the broader justice system, and it can improve the overall implementation of Indigenous rights and self-government.

During facilitated conversations, symposium participants had the opportunity to discuss existing models of Indigenous justice systems, and find the best ways to implement them. To help guide these discussions, representatives from nations that currently have innovative Indigenous justice systems – the Navajo Nation and the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne – took part in moderated panels.

The symposium follows the release of Budget 2019, which committed to supporting the development, use, and understanding of Indigenous laws by funding of Indigenous law institutes. The proposed contribution funding of $10,000,000 over five years will increase the development, use, and understanding of Indigenous laws and access to justice in accordance with the unique cultures of Indigenous peoples in Canada, by Indigenous peoples themselves and all Canadians, by providing support for the creation of legal tools, research, training and community capacity building.

"Indigenous peoples have formed and operated dynamic systems of justice from time immemorial. Fostering discussion and exchange on Indigenous laws and legal traditions is an important step towards advancing reconciliation, and ensuring that Indigenous perspectives are reflected in the Canadian justice system."

The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., Q.C., M.P.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

"It's important that we hear directly from Indigenous communities, elders and chiefs about Indigenous laws and legal traditions. By creating a space where everyone can listen, exchange ideas and learn from one another's experiences, we can better understand how Indigenous and non-Indigenous legal traditions can co-exist within Canada's constitutional framework." 

Arif Virani, M.P.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Quick Facts

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  • The Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls on federal, provincial and territorial governments to commit to the recognition and implementation of Indigenous justice systems. It calls for this to be done in a manner consistent with the Treaty and Aboriginal rights of Indigenous peoples, the Constitution Act, 1982, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.**
  • In 2016, Indigenous people in Manitoba made up 18% of the population and Indigenous adults represented 74% of admissions to provincial custody.
  • Indigenous adults comprised 4.1 percent of Canada's population, but represented 27 percent of admissions to federal custody and 30 percent in provincial and territorial custody**

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