Colonialism’s ‘success’ handcuffs courts

Colonialism led to such alienation that Indigenous offenders can be unaware of or can’t document their ancestry and the effects of assimilation on their life in order to benefit from compensatory sentencing provisions, a B.C. Court of Appeal division says.

Judges do not function as “gatekeepers” of Indigenous identity, the three-justice panel noted in rejecting the appeal of a violent thug with more than eight assault convictions who argued his dangerous offender designation and indeterminate sentence should be overturned in part because he “recently learned” he was of Métis ancestry.

Justice Elizabeth Bennett explained the “methods of assimilation are often the very things that give rise to an Indigenous person’s alienation from their Indigenous community or culture.”

“Thus, not everyone with Indigenous roots can prove those roots,” she said. “The government’s system of assimilation was, in many ways, ‘successful.’ It resulted in many Indigenous people being partially or totally estranged from their Indigenous heritage and disconnected from their culture, their community, and their support. This disconnection is intergenerational and acts as a barrier to realizing the principles enunciated in (the Supreme Court of Canada decisions known as) Gladue (1999) and Ipeelee (2012).”

Read The Full Article In The Vancouver Sun

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