Five things to know about the Gladue decision

(Gladue-Reports-Five-Thin) VANCOUVER _ It’s been nearly two decades since Canada’s highest court handed down its landmark Gladue decision on sentencing Indigenous offenders. Here are five things to know about the case:


THE CRIME: Jamie Gladue fatally stabbed her common-law husband outside their townhouse in Nanaimo, B.C., in 1995 after celebrating her 19th birthday. She pleaded guilty in 1997 to manslaughter and was sentenced to three years in prison. She appealed the sentence, but the case was dismissed by the B.C. Court of Appeal.


SUPREME COURT CHALLENGE: Gladue argued that neither the sentencing judge nor the B.C. Court of Appeal had followed a provision in the Criminal Code that requires courts to consider punishments other than prison time, “with particular attention to the circumstances of **>Aboriginal<** offenders.” The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal in 1999, but agreed that the lower courts had erred and ruled that an Indigenous offender’s history must be taken into account during sentencing.


OVERREPRESENTATION: The court’s decision said there was a “drastic overrepresentation” of Indigenous people in Canada’s prisons and jails, revealing a “sad and pressing social problem.”

The ruling said Indigenous offenders faced different circumstances than the rest of the population, including systemic and direct discrimination, a legacy of dislocation, and poor social and economic conditions.


A JUDGE’S RESPONSIBILITY: The Gladue decision said a judge sentencing an Indigenous offender “must give attention to the unique background and systemic factors which may have played a part in bringing the particular offender before the courts.” The judge should impose a sentence that denounces crime and is meaningful to the community, which could include restorative justice.


GLADUE’S SENTENCE: By the time the Supreme Court’s decision was handed down, Gladue had already been granted full parole, so the high court said it didn’t think a new sentencing hearing would be “in the interests of justice.”

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