By Shari Narine
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Metis Nation of Alberta is neither claiming Tamara Lich, one of the Freedom Convoy organizers, as one of their own nor denying her membership. The MNA is saying only “to respect the privacy of our citizens, our registry is confidential.”
Lich was arrested on Feb. 17 for her part in the Ottawa occupation which saw the downtown area around Parliament Hill blocked off for nearly three weeks in February.
Prior to being arrested, she made a televised address on Feb. 2, stating she was “a woman of Metis heritage, a mother and a grandmother.”
Lich, 49, and from Medicine Hat, now says she is a member of the MNA.
She is facing charges of counselling to commit the offence of mischief and committing mischief. She is one of five organizers and one of 122 individuals to be facing a variety of charges.
During that protest the Metis flag was flown.
Manitoba Metis Federation President David Chartrand wasted no time in condemning the use of the Metis flag and sashes and those convoy leaders who claimed to be Metis.
“The use of our symbols is not only inappropriate, but also unacceptable,” said Chartrand in a statement Feb. 4. “To see our symbols used in this protest creates a false and misleading impression of who we are as a people and what we value as a culture.”
Last week Lich raised her Metis status during a bail review. She was denied bail on Feb. 22, applied for and was granted a review of the bail hearing decision. That review was held March 2. She was kept in custody pending the review decision.
Raising Indigeneity means the possibility of a Gladue Report being produced.
A Gladue Report addresses how the circumstances of an Indigenous person’s experience has brought them to where they are in life.
Those circumstances are taken into consideration by a judge in sentencing upon conviction.
Lich’s Indigeneity and her Metis identity specifically have come under question on social media.
Not speaking specifically about Lich, Jonathan Rudin, counsel with Aboriginal Legal Services out of Toronto, which specializes in writing Gladue Reports, says if Indigenous identity cannot be established then a Gladue Report cannot be written.
“In those cases, we’ll write a letter to the court saying we’re unable to write a report. We do make it clear, however, that we are not the judge of who is or who is not an Indigenous person. That’s not for us to do. There’s been too much of other people telling people who is and who isn’t Indigenous,” said Rudin.
However, he admits that over the past 10 years more people are presenting cards that claim they have Indigenous backgrounds but are unable to present information about their Indigeneity.
“The point about a Gladue Report is to talk about the person’s personal circumstances particularly in light of their experience as an Indigenous person. So we need to know something about their experiences as an Indigenous person and if they don’t know any of those things, being a member of an organization doesn’t get us any further,” said Rudin.
A Gladue Report also looks at the broader systemic issues.
Aboriginal Legal Services (ALS) writes Gladue Reports after a person has been found guilty or has pleaded guilty. It takes six to eight weeks to complete and is used for sentencing. If a person is sentenced for 90 days or less, Rudin says, ALS will write a Gladue Letter “as the focus is more on sentencing options and we don’t have to go into more details on the person’s life.”
Gladue Reports can be requested by the client, defence counsel, the Crown or the judge.
“We don’t care who requests the report and once we write a report we send it to everybody at the same time. We take a view of these reports, what we call a `friend of the court’ reports,” said Rudin.
Gladue Reports are not undertaken in every province or territory.
They are completed in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario Alberta, British Columbia and the Yukon.
Lich was granted bail on March 7. She was required to return to Alberta and not come back to Ontario for anything but court or to meet with council. Other conditions apply, including not protesting COVID-19 mandates and staying off of social media. Rudin says she could request her Gladue Report be done in Alberta.
According to information provided on the website for Kahane Law Office in Calgary, which specializes in Gladue Reports, they should be used “every time an Indigenous person has a bail hearing, is being sentenced by judge, even for minor offences or is having a parole hearing.” They can be used every time an offence has been committed.
The website goes on to say that while Canada’s Indigenous population accounts for four to five per cent of the country’s population, they make up 26 per cent of the prison population.
“This number keeps going up. In fact, Indigenous women are the fastest growing population in prison. Their numbers have more than doubled since 2000.”
Shari Narine is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Windspeaker.Com . The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.