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Community-Based Initiatives At Heart Of Fsin Justice

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      DECEMBER 1996      v26 n01 p26  
The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) Strategic Plan for Indian justice was developed by the Indian justice Commission with Tribal Council representatives and technicians over the course of two months. It was presented and ratified at the FSIN Legislative Assembly on May 1, 1996. "Our people at the community level strongly believe the treaties are the key to the future of our children, and that is what our strategic plan is based on," said FSIN Chief Blaine Favel.

The Strategic Plan was developed to clarify the function that the FSIN plays in supporting the justice initiatives of Saskatchewan Tribal Councils and First Nations and to assist in their implementation. In developing the Plan, the Commission attempted to create a system that would restore traditional First Nations values, culture and spirituality. In addition, the participation of Elders, women and children was encouraged. As a result, a system that involves community-driven justice was produced.

Community-Based Justice Initiatives (CBJI) are one such example. For a number of months now, trainers have been going out to the First Nations to provide them with information on justice alternatives. The FSIN is now preparing to turn the program over to the Tribal Councils in the new year, following one more session.

Darren Winegarden, the Director of justice for the FSIN, says that the FSIN will remain somewhat active in the process after the transition to ensure that their curriculum on training is being followed. The Tribal Councils and First Nations will have the ability to modify the training to suit their particular needs.

Many First Nations are now turning to sentencing circles as an alternative to the court system. Winegarden says, "We want to do a protocol on sentencing circles" in an attempt to establish some guidelines. While there are a number of First Nations now using sentencing circles, there are currently no standard formats on which to base them. The goal is to establish a traditional basis and incorporate that into a format for use in the future.

The attraction of sentencing circles, says Winegarden, "is Indians providing solutions for Indians" as opposed to the court system in which non-Aboriginal people impose judgement on Aboriginals.

As recipients of a portion of the $1.6 million allocated by the federal and provincial governments to Aboriginal groups undertaking community justice programs, the FSIN is currently developing a new initiative. They are now working to establish the Community justice Committee of Saskatoon in conjunction with the Saskatoon Police Service and a number of other groups.

In addition, FSIN justice is becoming active with young offenders. Winegarden states, "We're really active in trying to create a presence [in the courts]." He believes that judges are responding favourably to the interest that the FSIN is taking in Aboriginal youths.

"I think we're doing good things for Indian people," says Winegarden. "[This work] needs to be done."