Webinar: Uphold Victims’ Rights and Uproot Systemic Racism
Date: June 9, 2021, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. EST
The Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime (OFOVC) believes that strengthening victims’ rights is a meaningful way to decolonize the justice system and create just and responsive legal processes. Racism is not a relic of the past – it is an ever-present feature of Canadian society. It is woven into public policy and embedded within our systems and institutions, like the criminal justice system, which replicates racial inequality. Racist incidents are manifestations of structural and systemic racism, not the actions of a few “bad apples”, but the result of colonial, genocidal and patriarchal traditions. This has led to the overrepresentation of racialized people in our criminal justice system, both as victims and as offenders.
Despite clear evidence of racial bias in the criminal justice system, very little has been done to correct it. For example, the over policing of racialized and low income communities reinforces biases that lead to anti-Black discrimination within policing, and disparities in police tactics, such as racial profiling and carding. In addition, the 2019 Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls found that Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ persons are over-policed and under-protected as a group. In our work, the OFOVC has also noted a lack of disaggregated data collected about racialized victims of crime including police interactions with over-represented and targeted populations.
Victims of crime deserve to be treated fairly and their statutory rights must be upheld. By strengthening victims’ rights, we can help to uproot systemic racism and achieve true transformational change. As part of this, criminal justice institutions must be required to develop rules, regulations and accountability measures that are enforceable - otherwise the current culture will remain.
OFOVC’s panellists will discuss specific experiences of oppression and challenge white privilege in order to propose solutions and actions that will strengthen victims’ rights, increase accountability of institutions and decolonize the criminal justice system. Other discussion topics include protecting vulnerable victims; reimagining police services through defunding or detasking; barriers facing racialized persons; increasing awareness of citizens’ legal rights and independent complaint and oversight mechanisms.
Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime
Heidi Illingworth has extensive experience in the victim services field. Prior to her appointment as Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, she spent 20 years in front line service delivery for victims of serious crime and interpersonal violence. She served as the Executive Director of the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime for over 11 years and also developed and taught courses in the postgraduate Victimology program at Algonquin College for 6 years. She has been a strong advocate for victims of crime, developing a number of resources to help support victim service providers, as well as individual victims of crime and their families.
Dr. Nadia Ferrara
Executive Director, Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime
Dr. Nadia Ferrara is an applied anthropologist and advocate for social justice. She is currently the Executive Director at the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, Department of Justice. Before joining this department, Nadia worked at Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE) for 2 years, and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada for over a decade, where she developed social policies and frameworks in collaboration with Indigenous partners. Nadia remains on Faculty at McGill University as Adjunct Professor in the Department of Anthropology where she supervises graduate and undergraduate students in her spare time.
Before entering the Government of Canada in 2003, Nadia worked as an art therapist for 16 years, specializing in cross-cultural psychotherapy with Indigenous peoples in Quebec and Ontario, Canada. Her education includes a Master of Arts in Art Therapy, a Master of Science in Transcultural Psychiatry, and a Doctorate in Medical Anthropology.
In addition to her publications of several journal articles and chapters in various books across North America and in Europe, Nadia has published two books on her work with the Crees of Northern Quebec: Emotional Expression among Cree Indians, and Healing through Art. More recently, she published Reconciling and Rehumanizing Indigenous-Settler Relations, which is a reflection on her work as an applied anthropologist and advocate for Indigenous peoples. Her latest publication is entitled, In Pursuit of Impact: Trauma and Resilience Informed Policy Development.
Jade Tootoosis is a nehiyaw iskwew from the Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Treaty Six Territory and the Rocky Boy Chippewa Cree Nation in Montana. Jade is a sister to the late Colten Boushie and has been one of the spokespersons for her family in their international pursuit for justice for their relative. #JusticeForColten became a movement and call for action and change in canada’s “justice” system. Her family’s stance is that no other Indigenous family should suffer a loss and endure the injustices and systemic racism that they did. Jade has committed her words and actions to this movement as she continues to advocate for justice for Indigenous peoples in canada.
Learn more about the family’s experience and work by watching the award-winning documentary, “nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up”.
Myrna McCallum is an Indigenous lawyer and the host of "The Trauma-Informed Lawyer" Podcast. Myrna educates on trauma-informed lawyering, vicarious trauma, cultural humility, and Indigenous intergenerational trauma through keynotes, training sessions, and customized coaching sessions. Prior to founding Miyo Pimatisiwin Legal Services in 2019, Myrna served as an adjudicator in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement claims process, and Crown Prosecutor with the Ministry of the Attorney General in Saskatchewan. When she is not FaceTiming her three grandchildren, educating or podcasting, Myrna is advising, advocating or conducting workplace investigations and reviews. In 2020, the Federal Department of Justice awarded Myrna their first ever Excellence in Legal Practice and Victim Support Award.
Dr. Annette Bailey
Dr. Annette Bailey is Associate Professor with the Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing at Ryerson University. She holds a PhD in Public Health Science. Her research is focused on gun violence prevention and survivorship. Much of this work has shed light on deeply seated racial injustice inherent in Black victims/survivors’ experience with gun violence loss and their access to support. Dr. Bailey has collaborated with researchers and advocates in several countries to establish policy recommendations for gun violence survivors. She has shared these policy recommendations in the House of Commons with Members of Parliament. Dr. Bailey continues to support community-based programs serving victims and survivors of gun violence. She is frequently called upon to support violence prevention initiatives at municipal, national, and international levels.
Fo Niemi is the Executive Director of the Montreal-based Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR). Over the years, he has also held numerous part-time positions, including the Chair of the Montreal Urban Community Transit Corporation's Complaints Examination Committee and Commissioner with the Quebec Human Rights Commission (1991-2003). He also served as member of an advisory committee on multicultural liaison of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and on employment equity for the Quebec Treasury Board; the Board of Directors of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation; the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council and the Quebec Government's Task Force on Racial Profiling. His major recognitions include the Prix de la justice du Québec and the Human Rights Award of the Lord Redding Society. He also participated in three official state missions on minority rights in the United States and Europe.
Dr. Nadia Ferrara, Executive Director, Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime
As the moderator for the Webinar, Dr. Ferrara provided opening remarks and guided the discussion with the panelists. To end the session, closing remarks were shared.
Elder Claudette Commanda
Elder Claudette Commanda said the opening prayer for the session, and led a moment of silence for the 215 Indigenous children whose remains were found at the former site of the Kamloops Residential School.
Heidi Illingworth, Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime
The Ombudsman provided a brief overview of the work of the OFOVC and the November 2020 CVBR Progress Report. She highlighted the importance of acknowledging the presence of systemic racism and racial bias within our criminal justice system, particularly from the perspective of white settlers in positions of privilege. She pointed to the profound impacts of systemic racism and bias on Indigenous, Black and racialized, and other marginalized peoples, and noted that strengthening the CVBR by creating accountability mechanisms is an important step in protecting marginalized and racialized victims of crime. She called on those in leadership positions to follow the lead of people who are most impacted by violence and injustice and to also reflect on ways to extend their power or shift it, in order to help those who are oppressed.
Jade Tootoosis, nehiyaw iskwew, Indigenous Justice Advocate
Jade Tootoosis shared her family’s experience navigating the criminal justice system following the murder of her brother, Colten (Coco, as he was known to her). She refers to the Canadian justice system as the Canadian legal system, as justice evades many Indigenous victims of crime. Ms. Tootoosis spoke to the fact that Indigenous victims are often treated as offenders, and are met with suspicion, intimidation, ignorance, and exclusion at all levels of their engagement with the justice system, from the police to the courts. She noted that there has still been no accountability from the RCMP in the decisions made following the murder of her brother by Gerald Stanley. When asked what would have improved her family’s experience, she noted the lack of respect by criminal justice officials including police and Crown, and a lack of consistent communication, cooperation, and inclusion, which compounded their grief. She also noted that Indigenous-specific victim services and supports were lacking, but their crucial importance to support Indigenous families through grief cannot be overstated. Finally, Ms. Tootoosis noted that Canadian legal systems were built on colonialism, and therefore sustain colonialism, and that Indigenous justice systems should be revitalized in order to work towards decolonization and improve the health and wellbeing of Indigenous communities.
Myrna McCallum, Indigenous lawyer and the host of "The Trauma-Informed Lawyer" Podcast
Myrna McCallum spoke of her own experiences of bias, racism, and trauma as an Indigenous woman working within the criminal justice system. She shared that it is not uncommon to be mistaken for the accused when walking into the courtroom as an Indigenous lawyer, which speaks to the degree to which subconscious biases exist. Ms. McCallum explained the concept of cultural humility, which was developed by two Black physicians in the Los Angeles area after witnessing the beating of Rodney King by the Los Angeles Police Department. Cultural humility is a relationship-based framework intended to address and invite equity into spaces where there has traditionally been inequity and privilege, such as the criminal justice system. Cultural humility invites those who embrace it to consider others as experts of their own lived experiences, which changes relationship dynamics to remove ego and prioritize humility. It emphasizes that we are more alike than we are different. Ms. McCallum also spoke to trauma-informed lawyering, which calls on lawyers to be self-reflective and understand how the trauma they carry can perpetuate trauma in the way they engage with others, including negative reactions to survivors who may present as angry. Regarding decolonization, Ms. McCallum spoke to the power imbalance between victims and those within the justice system, particularly with relation to Indigenous victims, where this system was imposed upon them. As such, the Canadian view of justice does not represent Indigenous relationships or values. Ms. McCallum shared that Indigenous-specific victim services can help, and spoke to the importance of Elders as they understand the value of developing relationships, and bring healing and wisdom into legal spaces. They should be valued as supporters for Indigenous victims – while being compensated for this support. She called for increased respect for Indigenous worldviews, ancestral laws and ceremonies, which can lead to relationship-building and systemic empathy for all.
Dr. Annette Bailey, Associate Professor, Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing, Ryerson University
Dr. Annette Bailey discussed the fact that young Black men bear the disproportionate burden as witnesses, victims, and survivors of gun violence, as well as the burden of disenfranchised grief and trauma. Dr. Bailey briefly shared her research with Black youth survivors of gun violence in Toronto, which found that excessive school suspensions, over policing, and exposure to community violence, among other systemic issues, create pathways to gun violence and a trail of grief. Dr. Bailey also spoke of the stigmas that Black mothers face. They are often denied access to victims’ services, compensation, other supports, or social empathy as a whole, due to the cultural imperative for Black mothers to be strong, and to the notion of the worthy victim, for which Black mothers are seldom considered. Instead, Dr. Bailey shared that the ‘bad victim’ stereotype (those victims who are ‘known to the police’) is often conferred upon Black mothers for losing children to gun violence, and noted that decisions by victim service personnel are sometimes dependent on this notion of good and bad victims. In fact, Dr. Bailey noted that race is becoming a powerful predictor in access to victim services. Dr. Bailey further noted that defunding or detasking the police is neither conclusively right nor conclusively wrong; rather, it depends on whether detasking or defunding would in fact lead to better outcomes for Black youth. Many Black men have died, or remain traumatized, as a result of police actions, while Black youth serve prolonged sentences for small offences, which will continue to impact their lives, their families, job opportunities and education. Heavy-handed and reactive approaches do not address the structural or systemic issues that impact the lives of the youth and as noted earlier, that create pathways to violence. Preventive strategies must be employed in order to help dismantle racist structures, and support the security and social development of Black youth. Dr. Bailey stated that police violence will continue against Black bodies if they continue to oppress without consequences. Finally, Dr. Bailey spoke to the importance of a race-based intersectionality analysis to review policies and decisions and the importance of training required for officials in cultural humility and unconscious bias. She also called for culturally relevant, trauma-informed care and support for victims as a bridge to healing.
Fo Niemi, Co-founder and Executive Director of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations
Fo Niemi spoke to the fact that racist violence, hate crimes and homophobic violence have made a comeback. He noted that systemic change is needed to make the legal system more accessible to marginalized victims, who traditionally face a number of barriers such as gender, race, class and ability when attempting to navigate a complicated system. Mr. Niemi also stated that the legal system must respect human rights to respond to the needs of victims in a way that considers equity as well as equality. Mr. Niemi echoed the other panelists’ statements that too often, crime victims are treated as disenfranchised bystanders with little agency in their case. This is because the Canadian, or western, conception of justice is that of the state against the accused. Mr. Niemi also noted the lack of recognition of intersectionality within the criminal justice system, and in particular that many women and children who are racialized, Indigenous, low-income, or have disabilities, often fall through the cracks when speaking of access to justice, equity and effective protection and support. Furthermore, Mr. Niemi shared of the challenges in employing trauma-informed approaches within the justice system, given that many lawyers and judges do not have training or backgrounds in social work. This makes human connection and dignity challenging; and too often, humanity and dignity are lost in bureaucratic processes. He called for civil, criminal and administrative processes to be accountable to the people they are supposed to help – the victims.
Dr. Nadia Ferrara:
I am Nadia Ferrara, Executive Director of the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime and your moderator today. I would like to point out that in Canada we live, learn and work on traditional Indigenous territories.
At the OFOC, we pay our respects to the First Nations, Inuit and Métis ancestors and affirm our commitment to respectful relationships with one another and live and work on the unceded un-surrendered territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe peoples. I acknowledge my responsibility to respect, honor, and sustain these lands, and to work to address historical and ongoing colonialism, racism, and oppression of Indigenous peoples, while simultaneously honoring Black, Indigenous and people of colors resilience to oppression.
I would like to take this moment to acknowledge residential school survivors, those living, those lost. And those recently found. attempts at cultural genocide has led to intergenerational trauma. This trauma, along with the continuing impact of colonization on Indigenous peoples is connected to high victimization rates. I would also like to recognize the intergenerational resilience, and resistance of Indigenous peoples, for which I'm forever grateful.
I would like to introduce my very good friend, Elder Claudette Commanda. Elder Claudette Commanda, an Algonquin, Anishnaabe from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, First Nation has dedicated her career to promoting First Nations rights, history, and culture. Claudette is the university of Ottawa alumni having graduated from the faculty of arts and the Faculty of Law, Common Law Section. Claudette was inducted into the common law Honor Society in 2009, a devoted and inspiring mentor, she has taught at the University of Ottawa Institute of women's studies, Faculty of Law, Faculty of Education, and the Aboriginal studies program, teaching courses on First Nations women, native education, First Nations people in history, Indigenous traditions, and decolonization.
Claudette, I'd like to offer you this gift of tobacco and ask you to open our webinar, in a good way with your words of experience and wisdom, and because I cannot give this tobacco to you in person, I promise to give it back to Mother Earth, in a good way, in my home garden. Over to you Claudette.
Elder Claudette Commanda:
Thank you, Nadia. Thank you for the kind respect for the Algonquin people and Indigenous peoples. Thank you for the respect of the protocol of the medicine of tobacco, and that you will keep it very safe, close to your heart, and you will offer it to Mother Earth, the tobacco will contain our prayers that will be said here today, the tobacco that medicine will contain the strength, the courage, the kindness and the love that we are willing to share here today. That medicine will contain the truth. The truth that will be spoken here today, and creator, will take that prayer, that is offered in this tobacco, that first gift that the creator gifted our people. When it's time to say our prayers to him and ask for that help that tobacco contains the sacredness of creator. It contains the sacredness of our mother the earth, and it contains the sacredness of our prayers.
Hello everyone, welcome to the ancestral home of the Algonquin Nation.
I welcome each and every one of you beautiful people to the homeland. This un-surrendered homeland of the Algonquin nation, the homeland that the creator and trusted onto us since time immemorial, and the homeland that we must ensure will remain here everlasting for our children, our descendants. I acknowledge the first ancestors of this land. I honor my ancestors. I acknowledge the lens of other First Nations and Indigenous peoples from coast to coast in this country called Canada. I acknowledge the ancestors of all Indigenous peoples. I acknowledge all your ancestors, all of us who are gathered here today. It is important to know that our ancestors are so important. It is our ancestors and continue to uphold us, our ancestors who continue to love us. Our ancestors who continue to guide us, and we must listen to our ancestors as we must listen to the responsibility that the Creator has entrusted onto us, that the work that we do is always for the children. Before we move into a moment of prayer. I ask, let us put our minds, let us put our hearts, let us put our spirits, let us put all our love and give that one moment of silence to the 215 children, the 215 children whose human remains were found in the unmarked grave in Kamloops BC. Let us show them that we loved him. Let us bow together in humility, humbleness, and love in that moment of silence for the children.
(Moment of silence)
Creator, you know those children by name, you know them by their original name, and creator we asked you, that you take all our love that was put here today for those children, and you embrace those children, and you will let them know that we love them, that we honor them, and we will always remember them. We thank you creator for hearing our prayer for the children. We come together brothers and sisters, as we open this webinar. This town hall on upholding victims’ rights and uproot systemic racism, we come together with that one mind, one heart, and that one spirit in one determination. And that is to show that there is no place in our hearts, no place in our societies, and no place in this country for hate, for only love, one determination because we are all together as brothers and sisters. I ask that you give your words of prayer in the way that you are comfortable in the way that you believe, but let us come together with love and kindness, as we say thank you to our Creator. Thank you, creator, for everything that you have given. Let us put our minds and our hearts together to acknowledge the first mother for all, the one who blesses us each and every day with all of our creations. Thank you, to our mother the Earth. Let us put our mind and our love together, as we say thank you to that first grandfather for warming our day. Every morning, as he blesses us with his breath, thank you, our grandfather the sun. Let us put our minds and our hearts together as we acknowledge our first grandmother, and we say thank you to her for her night light that shines and protects us each and every night. And as she provides that light for our sisters the stars to reflect so brightly, their kindness and love upon us. We thank you, our grandmother the moon. As we have given thanks to our mother the earth. Creator, we ask that you send the grandmothers and grandfathers and all those spirit helpers to bless this gathering to keep it safe, and we thank those grandmothers and grandfathers for their love and their kindness. Creator, it is my prayer for all that is here, that does that will speak. We know they will speak passionately. And we must listen compassionately and creator, we ask that together we put our minds and our hearts, that we uphold that sacred gift that you've given us, love, love, to understand, love to feel and love to know truth and love to make positive change. And creator, we thank you for hearing our prayer.
Dr. Nadia Ferrara:
Miigwetch Claudette, for your inspiring words, for your opening prayer, and for your presence. I'm so honored that you're with us today.
At the end of November 2020, we launched the Progress Report on the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, calling for this legislation to be reviewed and strengthened. We asked participants for suggested topics for future webinars and systemic racism was one of them. And so, today's webinar is a panel discussion with a focus on the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, and how it does not empower victims because it fails to hold criminal justice institutions accountable for upholding their rights. This has particularly negative impacts on racialized and marginalized victims of crime. Today I'm pleased to have a panel of experts with us to explore this further.
I have the honour to present the panelists.
Dr. Annette Bailey is an Associate Professor with the Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing at Ryerson University. She holds a Ph.D. in Public Health Science. Her research is focused on gun violence prevention and survivorship. Much of this work has shed light on deeply seeded racial injustice inherent in Black victims and survivors' experience with gun violence loss and their access to support. Welcome, Annette.
Jade Tootoosis is a nehiyaw iskwew from the Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Treaty Six Territory and the Rocky Boy Chippewa Cree Nation in Montana. She is a community engagement coordinator for the Faculty of Native Studies and the Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge at the University of Alberta. Jade is the sister of the late Colton Boushie, and she has been one of the spokespersons for her family and their international pursuit of justice for Colton #JusticeforColton became a movement, a call for action and change in Canada's justice system so that no other Indigenous family should suffer such loss. Ensure the injustices and experience the systemic racism that they did. For those who have not seen it yet, please check out the NFB film that documents, their journey. And it's titled We Will Stand Up. Welcome, Jade.
Myrna McCallum is an Indigenous lawyer and the host of Trauma-Informed Lawyering podcast, which I highly recommend. Myrna is educated on trauma-informed lawyering, vicarious trauma, cultural humility, and Indigenous intergenerational trauma. Prior to funding Miyo Pimatisiwin Legal Services in 2019, Myrna served as an adjudicator in the Indian residential school settlement agreement process and crown prosecutor, with the Ministry of the Saskatchewan, Attorney General. Welcome, Myrna.
Fo Niemi has held numerous part-time positions in the last two decades, including the chair of the Montreal, urban community transit corporations’ complaints examination committee, and the Quebec Human Rights Commission. During his term at the Human Rights Commission, he chaired the Commission's public hearings in 1993 on discrimination and violence against gender-diverse people. Bienvenue Fo.
Today we'd also like to hear from you all. You can ask questions through the Q and A function. You can share your comments or suggestions for future webinar topics. Please feel free to share your comments and suggested topics for discussion for future webinars.
We recognize that the subject matter today is very serious. Racism is present within our society and institutions like the criminal justice system racism. And woven into our public policies. Racist incidents are manifestations of structural and systemic racism not the actions of a few bad apples. But the result of colonial, genocidal, and patriarchal traditions. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the discussion today, we are sharing some crisis lines. As we speak, that you can reach out to for support.
To situate today's discussion within the work we do here at the office, I would like to introduce my esteemed colleague, Heidi Illingworth, the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime. Over to you Heidi.
Heidi Illingworth, Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime:
Thank you, Nadia. Good afternoon everybody.
I'm Heidi Illingworth, the Federal Ombudsperson for Victims of Crime. And I use the pronouns she, her, and elle. I want to thank you, Elder Claudette Commanda for your wise words, your beautiful prayer this afternoon, and for starting us off in a good way. I'm also really grateful for you leading us in a moment of silence to honour the 215 children who were found recently in a mass grave at the Kamloops residential school. The legacy of violence and pain created by the Indian Residential School System lives on in survivors today, which is why it's so important that we are having this discussion today. I'm joining you all from my home, south of Ottawa, on the unceded territory of the Algonquin peoples, and I want to begin by acknowledging the position of privilege I bring as a settler to my role as ombudsperson. I want to welcome everyone from across Canada to this virtual space today. Thank you all for being with us as we continue our conversation on the progress report on the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, and I'm so pleased to share this virtual space today with our esteemed panelists, Jade, Myrna, Annette, and Fo. I thank you sincerely for lending your knowledge and expertise to this very timely panel, given recent events across Canada.
Very briefly, I will explain what my office is mandated to do. The Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime has two key functions so, through our frontline service, we assist victims directly by reviewing their complaints related to federal policies, programs, legislation, and services. And second, we make recommendations to provide advice to the federal government on how it can make its laws, policies, programs, more meaningful, fair, and responsive to the needs of victims and survivors of crime. The recommendations we make are informed by what we hear through our direct work with survivors, with victims’ services professionals, with academics, and many other stakeholders who are directly involved in the criminal justice system.
On November 25 last year, my office launched our Progress Report on the Victims Bill of Rights. And this is an example of the evidence-informed work that we strive to do. In our Progress Report, we provided an in-depth examination of the treatment of victims in the criminal justice system over the last five years, since the CVBR came into force. And what we found is that a number of fundamental gaps and challenges remain for victims and survivors, and the CVBR does not fully adjust these.
So, this webinar today like Nadia said, is the third in a series that we are doing, continuing to build on our Progress Report. So, our panel today is going to discuss one of the most pervasive issues in the criminal justice system, which is systemic racism and racial bias. These biases have a profound impact on the lives of those who face discrimination, racism, and oppression. For many, their lives are changed forever because of violence, abuse, and trauma. And then these experiences are further compounded when they face racist or discriminatory interactions with officials who respond to them. Racialized and low-income communities, including Indigenous peoples, Black and racialized individuals, 2SLGBTQIAA plus individuals are all over-policed and overrepresented in our criminal justice system. This creates a cycle that reinforces biases that perpetuate the discrimination against them. We've seen this materialize in disproportionate responses from police and others within the criminal justice system. So, stereotyping, racial profiling, carding, excessive aggression and not believing victims, or treating them with suspicion or as criminals when they come forward to report victimization. In its impacted survivors who deal with these disproportionately impacts with little accountability from the justice system. In our progress report, we noted a lack of data collected on racialized victims of crime including police interaction with overrepresented and targeted populations, all victims and survivors of violence and abuse deserve to be believed when they come forward and they deserve to be treated fairly, with their statutory rights upheld. But without criminal justice agencies and officials being required to report publicly on how victims’ rights are met, we cannot hold officials accountable for their treatment of victims of crime, and more specifically towards racialized and marginalized groups. In my view, criminal justice institutions must be required to develop rules, regulations, and accountability measures that are enforceable, otherwise, the current culture will remain and those who are harmed by violence can be disbelieved disregarded or dismissed. In my view, we have to enhance the Canadian Victims bill of rights to strengthen victims' rights in Canada, and this is going to help us to uproot systemic racism and achieve true transformational change. Victims of crimes must feel confident that the justice system will protect them when they come forward to pursue justice. They should not be afraid to come forward to report the crime, because the system oppresses or victimized with them further. I can tell you every day that my office, our staff here talks to survivors who report that they fear coming forward, or that their rights are overlooked by officials or dismissed when they do.
Today we will hear from our panelists about these experiences of oppression. We will discuss solutions that will strengthen victims’ rights, increase the accountability of institutions, and share actions that we can all take towards decolonizing the justice system. We also plan to discuss protecting vulnerable victims, reimagining policing, and improving legal and justice system responses to crime and victimization. Now I recognize that there is resistance to this discussion today. And many people in positions of power feel uncomfortable. However, it's time to accept and acknowledge that the colonial justice system creates further harm, especially to racialized and marginalized people and to victims of crime in particular. We all need to reflect on what actions we can take and what solutions we can propose to change how the justice system responds to violence trauma and abuse so that it is not a disempowering experience for survivors or one that perpetuates abuse. We have a very engaging and important discussion ahead this afternoon. And I would like to thank you, merci, Miigwetch, once again everyone for being here and taking part in this discussion with us. And with that said, I give the floor to our panelists, Nadia, back to you.
Dr. Nadia Ferrara:
Thank you, Heidi, really appreciate that and now it is time to hear from our wonderful panelists. Jade, since August 9, 2016, you and your family have survived one of the most traumatic experiences that anyone can go through. Could you please share with us your experience in navigating the criminal justice system in pursuit of justice following the murder of your brother Colton Boushie?
I thank you for that question Nadia and I just like to start by saying Miigwetch Claudette for the prayer and the words at the beginning it is very appreciative and it's very grounding and gives strength to be able to speak today. I had to position my brother before I go into talking about what happened to him and what happened to us to honor his spirit and to bring him forth. My late brother Colton Boushie. Growing up, I knew him as Coco. That was the family nickname that we had for him and it's something you know when I, when I talk about him that's, that's who I talk about is my brother Coco. He was, a young man, he was a roofer, he was someone who liked to work with his hands and wasn't afraid to get dirty and do the hard labor. He was a helper too, my kokum took care of her, checked on her, brought her clean drinking water. He was also what we call the partner to our late papa. He was one of the favorites of our Mooshum for sure and it warms us to know that, where, where he is in the spirit world, he's sitting alongside and next to his partner at this time and continues to watch over us. And he was also a firekeeper in our community, he was someone who you could count on to come and keep the fire lit during specific ceremonies. So that's a little bit about my, my late brother and just the amazing individual he was and that we miss him. We miss him every day. And going into our experience with this Canadian legal systems I don't call it the Canadian justice system because that's not what it is to my family is the Canadian legal system, and every time I think about like where do I start you know do I start at the very beginning, encounters on the night of and the way the RCMP, you know, treated those five youths so my brother was the one who ultimately was taken and murdered that night but we forget there were four other Indigenous youth in that vehicle that was also shot at, chased assaulted, arrested, interrogated, you know, treated as if they were the ones that committed wrong as if they were the ones took a life. And this is very evident as well in the RCMP media release at the onset of everything that they were looking specifically at a property crime, as opposed to a very small note upon investigating a murder. So that set the onset of everything that followed afterward, you know, following that the RCMP surrounded my Auntie's trailer with a SWAT team. And as they informed her that my brother was gone. They then totally ransacked her trailer awoke two of my nephews sleeping in the backroom, brought them out, you know, smelled her breath like literally shook her, and told her to collect herself because she was grieving and in shock at the news of my brother being taken. And this is exactly how they treated my family by informing them that our loved one was gone, and even, even as we sat there questioning what is going on what is happening. Where is he is it really him. Is it really him? My, my late brother is laying in a gravel yard in the rain we come to find out later in the rain that uncovered evidence is washing away. And as we see in the Civilian Review Complaints Commission that recently came out published that pictured that, fingers tend to get pointed, no one wants to take accountability for what exactly happened that night, who made the decision to do certain things, and who made the decision not to do certain things. And so, as we went forward with the whole process with the bail hearing. You know Indigenous people gathered in the masses at the bail hearing. They felt the loss of my late brother, as well, and as we gathered outside with our drums and our signs, and we're calling his name, snipers were up on the rooftops of a building surrounding. You know, we see police escorting the Stanleys to go get lunch and eating lunch in the police station. While our family is out in the open exposed to the public. So, it made us question Who exactly is on trial here. Who exactly are the criminals because the treatment towards us was very, very different from the treatment of the Stanleys, through the entire process. And it makes you question, you know, all throughout. It made me ask, is this what all families go through when they lose a loved one, is this what all families go through when they're going through the judicial process of murder charges or is this just what Indigenous families go through when one of our loved ones are taken. And what I've learned in my journey so far is that there are many other families who experienced this loss, who are met with this intimidation, this ignorance, this exclusion, even, you know. And when they lose a loved one now. Someone told me you know the first thing I thought of was you guys. I thought you know; I might go through what the Boushie-Baptistes went through. And that's a real, that's the reality for Indigenous people at this moment in Canada. I mean I could talk definitely so much more. And I do appreciate Tasha Hubbard for making the film because it shares so much of our story, that's just the beginning part of it and just a sliver of the beginning of all of everything we went through.
Dr. Nadia Ferrara:
Thank you so much, Jade, I know, it must be so difficult to share your truth, but you're inspiring so many to express their truth about the Canadian legal system that's really not a justice system, so thank you for clarifying that. And, and the way you've treated, you've been treated the aftermath, we're so very grateful for you. And you being here and sharing your truth with us so much and so Miigwetch.
Myrna, for many of us, the concept of cultural humility, may be new. Could you share with us your work in this area, and how this practice can help lawyers and other criminal justice professionals, avoid racist engagement, just like what Jade has just expressed when serving populations who do not share the same background or lived experiences as themselves right now?
Thank you for the question. And thank you also Claudette for the opening prayer, I agree with Jade, it was very grounding and thanks again Jade for reminding us about who Coco was, and I mean I felt that loss on, on some level, coming from, Saskatchewan had been a crown prosecutor in Saskatchewan, being a lawyer who's part of the justice system. I mean, I've seen a lot of what Jade was just talking about, and I've also felt as a lawyer working within that system. I've also felt the effects of not just race, or racism and bias, but also the traumas that we experience in these spaces, especially as an Indigenous woman. I mean we hear all the time from Indigenous lawyers that it's not uncommon for us to be mistaken for the accused when we come into a courtroom. I think that's happened to every one of us. So, I just wanted to share the little pieces, a lot of kids say about my thoughts about our systems. But, cultural humility I have found to be a framework that is something that lawyers and judges also have embraced and been very interested in whenever I present on it, and I think it complements trauma-informed lawyering really well because it's a relationship-based framework, so it goes further than cultural competence or cultural safety or cultural awareness, which I think are very self-centered frameworks that get us to think about what have I read, what have I heard what do I know and what positions lead me to work with whoever the other is and it could be race, gender, gender identity, etc. But, cultural humility, as I've come to understand it is a relationship-based framework that is intended to address and invite equity into spaces where there has been in-equity and where there has been a lot of privilege, like the justice system. And it's a framework that was developed by two Black physicians in the Los Angeles area, Dr. Melanie Tervalon, MD, MPH, and Dr. Jann Murray-García, MD, MPH, they created this framework when they, after witnessing the beating of Rodney King by the LAPD and they thought, what can we do to address these racial disparities and inequities in our backyard, which of course is the healthcare field so that's, that's where that framework comes from. And it's being a relationship framework. It invites us, who embrace it to look at everyone we're working with. As the expert in their own lived experience. And what is it that we can learn from them? And, of course, as soon as we do that as soon as we start to think about whoever we're working with as an expert in their own lived experience, that changes the relationship dynamic, and we show up with humility and humility being that we are more alike than we are different. And I just want to be clear on, on what that means for me because I've heard a lot of folks say well isn't humility you know, diminishing myself so someone else can feel, you know better about who they are no it's not about making yourself less valuable, it's about recognizing that we all have something to offer in this space. And so when we come into a space like that with that understanding, it changes the dynamic, it's really hard to have ego occupy the same space when humility is present, and so this is what I talk about often, and I say we can't talk about addressing inequities, we can't talk about privilege and we can't talk about having a relationship-based framework to help us bridge cultural misunderstandings, without doing the courageous work of self-reflection and self-critique, particularly when it comes to unconscious biases, like what do I think I know about x, where did I get that information. Is it, Ill-informed, is it updated? There are lots of things that we need to ask ourselves and it's a constant lifelong process. So, it's not like you could take a course in cultural humility, check a box and go okay, I'm now positioned to work with you, doesn't work that way. So that is in a nutshell what it is Nadia and I think it's one mechanism to help to address some of the stuff that we're seeing and what we're hearing Jade talk about today.
Dr. Nadia Ferrara:
And definitely a critical mechanism and one that we're not socialized enough to engage in. So thank you for placing emphasis on the need to self-reflect. It also reminds me of the seven grandfather teachings that Claudette has enlightened me on that I highly recommend people just reflect on because humility is courage, love, these are all relationship-based so thank you Myrna for sharing your insights on that.
Annette, you've done a lot of research with Black families affected by gun violence, what is important to know about the influence of racism in the experiences of Black victims and survivors of gun violence?
Dr. Annette Bailey:
Thank you so much, Nadia. I'll start off by sharing with you that one of the interviews that I conducted with Black mothers who lose lost their children to gun violence was done at the graveside of her son and she would not participate in the study if the interview wasn't done at the graveside. And at the end of the interview, she walked me through the cemetery. And she showed me the miles and miles of graves belonging to young Black victims of gun violence. And as I walked through the cemetery, and many cemeteries after that, I became woefully aware of the extent to which gun violence had penetrated the Black community, the bodies of young Black men are piling up in cemeteries and in morgues. And unfortunately, these numbers for these Black deaths, are not captured in Canada, because of the lack of systemic or a systematic race base and race crime data. So young Black men, especially those living in disadvantaged neighborhoods bear the disproportional burden of gun violence as witnesses, as victims, and as survivors of gun violence, they also bear the unequal burden of disenfranchised grief and trauma from losing multiple friends and family members to gun violence.
So we ask the question, how does race, play a role in these deaths and research that I've done, particularly in Toronto with Black youth survivors of gun violence show that race-based trauma from over-policing anti-Black racism, excessive school suspensions, exposure to community violence, and death create this pathway to gun violence for them, and the death of many of these Black men, create a trail of grieving Black survivors behind them whose grieving process is complicated by this the social stigma of gun violence that intersect with this preponderance of racism in society. And this is especially important for Black mothers who lose their children to gun violence, who are often denied access to Victim Services, denied access to other supports, and to social empathy, as a whole. Many of these Black mothers when they show up to interviews with me, they bring two things with them. One is a picture of their murdered child, and the other is a letter from victim services, stating that they were denied, particularly victim compensation. In an earlier study that I conducted with grieving Black mothers in Toronto, 90% of these mothers were denied Victim Compensation, because they were told that their children were known to the police. And that they didn't manifest mental shock as a demonstration of their grief. And so, mothers would inform me that, you know, they weren't qualified for compensation, and that they were often told they're not grieving enough. And for those who asked who understand this cultural imperative for a Black woman to be strong. You recognize that they will show up as not demonstrating grief in the sense that we want to have it shown. Many of these mothers would show up to interviews with me in their Sunday best. So my concern is that race is becoming a powerful predictor of victim service access, even though there are policies and definitions that should guide the decision-making to ensure equitable access to services in Canada, and what it was down to, is the fact that there is this notion of the worthy victim, one victim service personnel who were interviewed told me that decisions for services are made on who the good victims are and who the bad victims are. And this construction of the bad victim is often conferred upon Black mothers, as a consequence of losing children to gun violence. So, but for Black mothers who also lose social support because of the stigma of gun violence and lose victim services that have a particular impact on their grief process. Although the stories of many of these mothers are about resilience. Many more of their story is about complicated grief, about post-traumatic stress, prolonged depression, marriage breakdown, suicide attempts. And so, all of these need to be taken into consideration on how the loss or denial of victim services impact on their ability, even to navigate their new survivor identity. And so, I'll leave it there for consideration.
Dr. Nadia Ferrara:
Thank you so much and thank you for your advocacy and your important research work and we clearly definitely need to do better, so thank you.
Fo, you've been working in the area of human rights and civil rights for several decades, what changes have you seen, has there been any progress. And do you feel that we are at a tipping point?
Thank you very much and again thank you very much for allowing me to be part of this national conversation appreciate it very much. I do represent an organization that has worked in this area of racism, racist violence, hate crimes, even sexual violence, and also homophobic violence so for many years. I'm glad to report it in many ways we have seen progress in the last two-three decades, because mainly of the changes in values, changing the laws brought on by the majority of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we gain greater equality for and also issues of dignity and security for a lot of individuals in this country, but we still have a long way to go, in part because, as you've seen in recent years, is that hate is making come back and open violence is making a comeback. In the 80s and the 90s and Quebec here, we had basically Ku Klux Klan in the street. We had hate fests right north of Montreal, people coming from Ontario, United States holding hate fests. So, we still have a problem with hate crimes as you can see recently the wave of anti-Asian hate has created so many casualties and victims in this country. And now we've seen. More recently, the victims of Islamophobic violence. So, we have to address one of the challenges for those of us who work in support of the weights of victims of crime, victims of discrimination, and victim of hate, is how to ensure the system be it the criminal justice system or we can call the legal system. Even the civil justice system and the administrative justice system, how to ensure that the legal system as a whole is not only accessible but also treats and respond to the needs of victims in an equitable and dignified way and the whole notion of equity is so important because not everyone is equal, to begin with. In life, or even in death. So, we have to ensure the guiding principles of equity of access of effective protection. Also, adequate support always guides our work.
I wanted to focus on two areas that I find so important that we talk a lot about; women's rights, and we see how the women's movement has brought in so many changes in society in the last 20 to 30 years. But we also tend to forget sometimes because of our tendency to sometimes look at things uni-dimensionally. Women as a monolithic group, and there are a lot of women, low-income women, Indigenous women, racialized women, low-income women with disabilities, young women who still fall through the cracks. Even if, in the name of gender equality we claim to have made a lot of progress, and I've cases to tell, a case of a Black immigrant woman who was beaten by a security guard and who had to wait for six months, and we had to follow call up the police and the crown office, asking what's going on with her case because she was never informed as to what was going on with her case she didn't even know whether criminal charges were filed. We have another case of a Black mother whose sons were basically repeatedly harassed in the school, intimidated, and threatened with violence. And that mother had had to practically sacrifice her academic life in order to look after her two children. And we also had to push, even the police or the school authorities just to apply legislation on bullying and violence in schools, because the system was not responding enough to these victims of violence and intimidation. And so, what I'm trying to say is that we still have some work to do. One of the greatest or possibly most encouraging things I've seen in recent in the last two years, is that increasing there's a growing recognition in this country that there are groups with special needs that are not, you know, treated equally in a fairly and in a very inclusively, particularly racialized women racialized men, people of color of all backgrounds, so whether newly arrived or been here for a long time and especially Indigenous people and I think the coming together of these groups have different needs, they’re intersecting, you know, it shows where the destinies and the recognition of interdependent intersecting needs to create a new dynamic now that can make it more hopeful. And I hope that the current government has a comprehensive strategy to address racism in Canada particularly anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism and can come up with ways to ensure that above all victims of crime or victim of hate or victim of violence in any form, can get that support and that effective protection and to get what our Constitution guarantees, that the equal protection and equal benefit of the law. So, I hope that we can work together towards that.
Dr. Nadia Ferrara:
I sure hope so too and thank you, Fo, for highlighting the importance of intersectionality, it is such a key component moving forward. Coming back to you Jade, over the last couple of years, incidents of racism and the criminal legal system are drawing more public attention and outcry. Do you feel that the message is getting through that racism is a systemic issue, and not just a few isolated incidents?
I appreciate the question, thanks Nadia, and I really appreciate hearing the other panelists and what they each have to share with regards to so many important elements and layers to this conversation. So, in terms of you know like, do I feel that the message is getting through that racism is a systemic issue. At times, yes. And it's mostly by just engaging with the communities, and more particular with young people, with high school students that are taking up a voice and taking up advocacy in their schools, informing their peers, challenging the curriculum, teachers as to what is being informed and what is not being informed in the classrooms, and what they're reading about in the media.
The access to information is so prevalent and, you know, I always caution that the media does not share the extent or the truth of the story. So, to always actively engage and continue to learn. I, you know, I appreciate Myrna’s words around, humility, you know, and that openness, not to be right or correct in your thoughts and opinion but open to understanding, further asking questions because it's so quick that when an Indigenous person is a victim, it's so quick to blame Indigenous people for what happened. And we saw this with my brother. So quickly, people were to blame him, so quickly they were to blame our families, so quickly were they to blame the community or Indigenous people overall, you know and otherwise I don't feel like the message is getting through that is, it is a systemic issue. You know, the Canadian legal system is so slow to change is what I've come to understand. For instance, you know, jury selection peremptory challenges have been eliminated in Canada. As of September 2019 however, we must remember that recommendation was made back in 1999 with Manitoba, but the Aboriginal justice inquiry in Manitoba. So, to show that timeframe and how long it took, and what it took. It took a life; it took probably multiple lives to make that change. So, it makes me wonder like, you know, why do we have to lose so much to be able to understand that there are systemic issues apparent. There are racist issues apparent that need to be addressed. And those concrete actions need to take place. and now, it shouldn't take another Colton Boushie or any other Indigenous person or person of color to address these issues, you know, and thousands go to the street to say enough is enough because, as much as these reports and studies show that this is an issue, we don't need another report because there are reports out there that show it, that are evident to it. So, let's focus on those and make the changes necessary. So, February 9 is the day of the acquittal of Gerald Stanley when he was found not guilty of any wrongdoing. And so we've called upon that as the National Day of Action and reflection. Looking at the Canadian legal systems, and what exactly has changed since 2016. Who else have we lost, you know, are there changes, do we see the changes, and feel them, because it's not just about a feeling it's about actually seeing policy changes, actual concrete changes. And so, we call on people to reflect on what has changed in 2016, and it's brutal that the people have to continually, especially Indigenous people have to continually hold these systems accountable. Continue to question them and push them, and we keep saying the same thing over and over and it's getting frustrating and tiresome for sure. So, in some ways, I say yes, and in other ways, not enough.
Dr. Nadia Ferrara:
And I so agree Jade it does get exhausting. It's exhausting and this shouldn't be on Indigenous peoples alone, but all Canadians to take the time to reflect and go beyond the media and reports and be those critical thinkers that we need to be. So, thank you, Jade, for that.
Myrna why is trauma-informed lawyering so important to changing the culture of the justice system?
Okay, good question. I mean I believe well I just, I believe that the systems that we work in right now need some radical positive transformation. And that's how I see trauma-informed lawyering. Trauma-informed lawyering at its root calls on us to understand how the traumas that we carry in our lives can sometimes perpetuate further trauma in the way that we do our work, in the way that we engage with other people. How the traumas of those we work with can ultimately touch us and sometimes follow us home and do real harm to our mental health and well-being, which of course often plays out in the courtroom, we can see it. I at least, I see some really bad behavior sometimes from judges and lawyers, and I suspect sometimes that just a presentation of their own coping mechanism because they've been exposed to so much trauma, they just don't know what else to do but to be, you know, desensitized and cold and disconnected so I think sometimes that's a coping mechanism that doesn't serve us well because as lawyers we have terrible mental health outcomes. We have really high substance abuse rates, suicide rates, addiction, etc. But beyond recognizing trauma and being able to accommodate it and respect it in others and in ourselves, that it also calls on us to make space to prioritize things like relationships, why is it important to have relationships with the people that we are working with. How can those relationships benefit ourselves but also benefit the system overall like I often think about, you know, of course, the experience that Jade has shared with us today that is always front of mind, and as a former prosecutor in that province I am shocked. I was shocked then and I still continue to be shocked. And then I go a little bit West, and I look at the treatment of Cindy Gladue and how her family was treated during those trials that involving Bradley Barton. And again, it just tells me that we are lacking as lawyers when we don't prioritize relationships with the people that we serve. And we need to remember that when we come into these spaces, these spaces were not intended for us. Although lawyers and judges behave as though those are, that's our house, that space is for us. The space is actually for the people to give voice to the people who need justice, who need healing, who need support, who need protection, who need, whatever the thing is, and I think many of us have lost sight of that and trauma-informed lawyering is a really good framework to bring us back to remembering why we are there in the first place. And then finally, of course, trauma-informed lawyering is a really helpful framework to not only serve as a guide to bring us back into connection with the people we're serving but to figure out how it is that we are impacted by the work we do, how our biases and our beliefs about others create disconnection or bring up walls, how are we practicing good boundaries and healthy boundaries so that we can do the work that we do in a good way.
And I just want to flag for a moment an example of doing things in a good way, which is something I would love to see every Indigenous person who goes into a courtroom in this country, whether as a victim of crime, as an offender, or as a witness. Justice, he's retired, he retired I think in 2018 but Justice Langston of the Alberta Queen's Bench was sentencing Barbara Holmes, who was an Indigenous woman who'd been convicted of manslaughter, she had killed her husband. His reasons for sentencing are very short but one of the things that he speaks about is he talks about how they opened with a ceremony. He had invited in an Elder to open with prayer and a ceremony. And then the first words out of his mouth were something I've never heard a judge say before, but I wish every judge would say when dealing with an Indigenous person in that courtroom, which is. He says I recognize that Miss Holmes, is an Indigenous woman, and that she is in a system that is imposed upon her, and that my sense or my view of justice is very different from the Indigenous view of justice and that the system I'm a part of has done nothing but try to destroy Indigenous people Indigenous cultures, Indigenous languages. And he acknowledged that from the outset, and I thought that was a really powerful demonstration, not just a cultural humility, but of understanding the trauma that the system continues to perpetuate against Indigenous people who every time was brought into those spaces, we are brought into a system that doesn't reflect our view of justice, our laws. And it's imposed upon us. And I think as lawyers, continuing to hold up the system as it is, need to acknowledge that.
Dr. Nadia Ferrara:
That's so powerful. Myrna, thank you for sharing that and hopefully, he'll inspire others other judges and criminal justice professionals to do the same. Because once you see it in practice, it's easier to adopt. So, thank you for sharing.
Annette, we've heard a lot about defunding or de-tasking the police. How do you think this would have specific impacts on Black youth experiences with the police and the criminal justice system?
Dr. Annette Bailey:
Thank you, Nadia, for that question, and let me just say to Myrna that, that is an amazing demonstration of systemic empathy, and more judges need to employ that. But Nadia your question is quite intriguing. And I would say that the defunding or de-tasking of the police is neither conclusively right nor conclusively wrong. Some people will argue that this is about weakening structures of protection and security in communities, and then others recognize that this emerges from a desperate need to remedy, a system of policing that operates on abuse of power and dehumanization of particularly Black bodies. Many Black men, as we know have died, or traumatized by police actions and police inactions. And as much as we know that issues of inequalities and injustice bring Black youth closer, closer to the criminal justice system, and thank you, Jade, for giving me permission to say criminal legal system. It is usually their contact with the police that serve as the critical point of the first contact with the system. When Black youth, enter this system, it accelerates this downward spiraling in their social and psychological health. Black youth, as we know are serving prolonged sentences, sometimes for small offenses, and the person experience adds an added layer of trauma and disadvantage will continue to impact on their lives, their families, job opportunities, and education. So, if the funding or de-tasking, the police would help to ameliorate some of these outcomes for Black youth, then it would certainly make sense.
But even today. We're seeing very little evidence of improvement in the interactions of police with Black youth. In a study, a recent study that I did in Toronto with Black youth survivors. The youth in the conversation, constantly go back to their experience with the police. They talk about being so afraid of the police that they're afraid to leave their homes. I hear things like, and I quote, the cops will stop you for wearing a hoodie. When they stop you, they always start with, there's been a robbery in the area, and then they slam you against the car and then search you. They call you by name when they see you on the street. Some cops just pull out a gun on you. Even when you do nothing, quote, unquote. And so, the important question for me is will the funding, or the de-tasking of the police address some of the systemic issues that bring Black youth closer to the legal system. Black youth social vulnerabilities, we know have preventative strategies that are focused on mentorship, support for social and educational development, capacity and resilience building, and on addressing particularly race-based trauma that they experience. We know that that kind of remedial work, the kind of preventative work is important, and heavy-handed reactive reinforcement approaches don't address the structural and systemic issues that impact the lives of these youth. These have to be considered when we talk about how we address gun violence on Black youth, or how do we prevent them from coming into contact with the system.
So there has to be a balance between the security and social development of these youth. And so, defunding the police on the basis of allocating these funds to address systemic and developmental issues that Black youth are facing may result in less youth coming into contact with the system, especially at a young age that leaves them traumatized for their, their life, and another quick important question is, will defunding or de-tasking the police help to dismantle the racist structures that we are seeing in policing. And personally, I believe that these racist structures will continue. As long as police have the power and the authority to oppress without consequences. There would need to be a restructuring of the power structure and the entrenched practices and ideologies of police, even new police that come into the system are tutelage and acculturated into a system that is already very fully develop that they find it difficult to change from within. So, de-tasking still means that police will still hold certain roles. And if these roles are assisted with policy change. Then, I mean, we that's, that's what we want to see. So the question becomes, Is this about de-tasking or defunding, or really is it about rapid and systematic policy changes that hold police accountable.
Dr. Nadia Ferrara:
Definitely thank you so much Annette and you know, if we talk about de-tasking, it means taking some of those funds and really looking at what is working in communities and community-based programs and services, I believe, is where we need to really focus on. But thank you for your insights.
Fo, how can independent complaints process and oversight bodies help to create change? Can these institutions, assist us in uprooting racism?
Thank you very much for the question, as Professor Bailey mentioned, I think we want to have systemic change, we have to have among the things, the systemic analysis, we need to re-imagine and restructure the system. Systemic analysis is based on the intersection of race, gender, class, and ability, something that we do here at least with our organization, can provide a more conceptual and holistic approach to the problem of barriers, systemic barriers because let's start with the fact that most of the systems of the legal system, the criminal justice system just don't reflect the people, the demographics and the diversity of the Canadian population, you know, too many of our judges have come from corporate law firms. So, we need to change things from the top down. Too many lawyers have no social worker, no social science background. They don't have any training in helping relationships which is, among other things, lawyering is all about. So as long as we don't have some of those skills dealing with people's needs and people's interests, the system will continue to fail. But more importantly, and fundamentally, we need to read, re-think the kind of treatment that we give to crime victims too often they are treated as bystanders in the criminal justice system. It's a state versus the accused. You know, and crime victims, if they're lucky, they're treated as crime victims and to be heard, to be believed, and also to be respected, to be consulted before any kind of decision can be made. And too often crime victims have no means or are standing over no right. The challenge to go for review and administrative decisions within the system and is something that we asked for I believe that the Federal Office of the Ombudsman also asked me to change the standing that crime victims should have because they need to have a say in anything that can determine among other things, victims’ rights, civil rights, and constitutional rights. And so systems don't work in part because they don't reflect the people, you know they're still that's us and them and the way that the system is made up. It's not about just having a token representation because I believe a substantive and meaningful representation when the system reflects the people, they are designed to serve to protect and to provide support and reparation. Okay, unless we look at those systemic change and demand changes at the top, we continue to face this kind of exclusion and the inefficiency is not about having more budget, it's about having the right resources, including the people. This from the staffing, you know, the front line to the all the way that a victim, witness or any other person going through the legal system they have to feel that they have a say and they have the ability also to ask, among other things, for accountability, all of us here have experience in dealing with the legal system in different capacities, and we tend to see the lack of accountability, personal accountability. We have started to see even judges now are to be held personally accountable for the things that they say, or they don't say, or when some cases going before them, I think their sexual violence is a new way with judges increasingly being held personally accountable. So, we need to do the same and so that's why when we talk about among other things, greater rights and greater protection and fair reparation for crime victims, we need to look at it from a critical systemic perspective and I always advocate for it to be looked at it from a race, class, gender, and ability perspective as well. I would like to just mention when we are talking about accessing the justice system in terms of protecting crime victims, we have to think of children. We seldom talk about children as victims of crime or as witnesses, and how they are treated throughout the system. We have an international convention of the right of the child. We have so many constitutional guarantees for children and discrimination based on age but seldom, we talk about the rights of children. That's why one of the things we advocate for is basically to adopt child rights and impact assessments. In order to ensure that children victims of crime can be treated more fairly and justly.
Dr. Nadia Ferrara:
Thank you so much, Fo, so important to recognize children and their rights for sure. And what I'm left with here just in listening with your brilliance on this panel is a systemic rethinking founded on systemic empathy is what's required moving forward. So, I can't thank you enough.
Jade, looking back over your experiences since 2016, what would be the one or two actions that would have made this journey easier for you and your family?
Thank you for that Nadia, one or two things that can make the most difficult, most traumatic experience easier is really hard to reflect on is the relationship with the crown prosecutor could have been so different, you know, for us, we had a number of crown prosecutors that we worked with. I can honestly say each and every single one of them, excluded, overlooked, ignored, and disrespected my family. And so, an example would be, never once had the crown met with us, unless we called the meeting with them.
There were there was a time when I remember sitting with the crown prosecutors and it was our very first meeting with them and, and I wanted to situate once again, my brother and who he was, humanizing him because it didn't feel like my brother was a human being to these individuals. And as I talked about my brother, I talked about the history of Indigenous peoples, and our distrust with the systems at hand and the people who operate within the systems. And as I was talking, you know, it's an emotionally difficult thing, and I didn't realize my voice began to rise as I spoke to these prosecutors, and they cut me off. I remember one of them stuck their hands up and was like, okay, if you're going to yell at us, we don't need to be here. And that moment they threatened to walk out, walk out the door and not listen to us. And I felt like I was doing something wrong, I felt like, I'm rocking the boat too much. I'm pushing too hard on these people who hold a position of privilege and power within the structure to get justice for my brother, you know, and I had to back off. And I then controlled my voice. I had to compose myself in order just to speak to them and as I reflect back on it, I get angry because I shouldn't have had to do that. If there was some understanding, some empathy, even a smidge of a relationship, maybe, you know, there'd be some understanding to what we were experiencing and going through.
At that moment I realized we weren't even human beings to these individuals, they had their minds made up about my brother, felt like they had their minds made up about us. And this was evident all throughout because we saw the crown prosecutor walk in and greet the defense lawyer right in front of us, smiling and laughing, as we're sitting there looking at him and they don't look at us, you know, the disrespect that even the fact that Gerald Stanley, when he took his testimony, was handed the gun, that he used to shoot my brother with, and we were given no notice, no information that was even going to happen. So some of us, walked out, some of us broke down crying, you know like, there was no relationship with the crown prosecutor, and even to this day, when the appeal was announced they had a press conference, four hours away from us, so that none of us could be present to ask questions, to get an explanation. We were completely overlooked, and then at times intimidated, you know, and a lot of the times when we read decisions made by the crown prosecutor by the courts, we read it in the newspaper, along with the rest of Canada.
When Gerald Stanley was released on bail, I was traveling to a pow-wow and someone sent me the Facebook article, you know, that’s how the crown didn't work with us. And once again, we would call meetings with them, so we were trying and constantly reaching out but receiving nothing. And this was also evident for our legal, for our lawyers who are supporting us, you know, who are being met with silence, and then run around and, you know, once again, is it like this for all families, or just Indigenous families?
And so definitely some clear consistent communication, cooperation, and most of all respect from the crown prosecutor would have been more helpful than how it was. The other thing I would say is, Indigenous-specific victim services and supports would have been helpful because a lot of times when we went out to look for support for ourselves, we would have to almost educate people on colonization, racism, on what we were dealing with before we would actually get to what it was, we were dealing with, so it is very limited out there with regards to Indigenous-specific victim services and supports but ultimately it comes. The number one thing that would have made this easier, is my brother should not have died, my brother should not have been shot should not have been taken. And the fact that it went the way it did following his murder. Just goes to show there's so much work that needs to be done because if a person can make that decision and feel justified in their actions, it speaks to the system and the society we live in at hand.
Dr. Nadia Ferrara:
Thank you, Jade and I so agree, Coco should still be here with us. I have to say, I do feel his presence through you. And I remember recently you told me, Nadia, don't put out that fire inside of you, so please take those words for yourself as well. Don't let anyone stop you from raising your voice because you do it so well. So, thank you, Jade.
Myrna, Indigenous communities refer often to the need for decolonization. Can you tell us why this is so important for affected families, and especially for transforming the justice system right now?
That's a big question, especially considering a lot of people don't have a definition for decolonization neither do I. I just want to respond though like comments on what Jade has just shared. I mean, the examples that she provided, that you provided Jade about what your experience was is exactly why I train lawyers to become trauma-informed. So, the example that you shared about your voice rising as you're speaking, I say to lawyers all the time. That's trauma presenting. Trauma doesn't always present as silence and sadness, sometimes it's rage and so it should be because the traumas people experience are enraging, and we need to respect that and the problem that a lot of lawyers have is that we are so egotistical in our engagements that we then require the victims or the families of victims of the people we work with to now come and accommodate our emotions and our emotional responses and meet us where we are and manage our emotions, which is so incredible for lack of a better word whack because I keep using, this is one of my favorite words so whack, you know, and it's so traumatizing because what you do is, you do exactly what Jade just described. You silence people, and then you force them to accommodate your ego and you leverage your power. And, and then the power imbalance drives the rest of the engagement, not to mention the silencing and the disrespect, and it becomes an ego-driven process. I'm sorry that that was your experience and I'm sorry that that was her family's experience. It totally breaks my heart and every time I read about it, I was so disgusted. Because that would have never been my way, that was never my way. I would go to communities, I would meet families, I would have conversations about what's coming, what's around the bend, what they can expect, what they can't expect. I'd want them to know me and know my people and know where I come from and know that they matter and that they have personal agency in this process, even though, you know, a lot of people feel like they have no control because yes, it is a rigid process, but I would make that time. And, you know, of course, I know my own Indigeneity informs that because I come from people who are rooted in relationships right, that's a priority. So, I teach this stuff, and, and I get lawyers to think about why it's important to center relationships, not that long ago I was presenting Alberta crown prosecutors who wanted to know how we support Indigenous victims of crime. So further to what I've just said about centering relationships and prioritizing those things and being really clear about checking your ego at the door so that when somebody is angry or raising their voice for swearing. That's not about you. That's just trauma presenting and absolutely you should be validated. Of course, you're angry. Of course, you are. And then you continue the relationship. You don't be like, you need to like get a hold of yourself or we're going to shut this down, which is what happens too often anyway.
Beyond that, I digress, so beyond that, I talked to them about exactly what Jade mentioned, we need Indigenous-specific support services. We need to bring elders into these spaces. One of the reasons why I continue to amplify Justice Langston is because he did that. He brought ceremony into that space, he brought elders into that space, and he recognized that the Indigenous view of justice doesn't look anything like the Canadian view of justice, and in fact, it's a system imposed upon us so, every time we're in there, it's because of an imposition. It's not something that centers us or our laws or language or relationships or values. And so, we need Indigenous-specific victim services because they do that, the elders know the value of a relationship. They won't just meet with the victim a day or two before trial, introduce yourself, share some information for you, and then peace out as soon as the trial is over, they recognize that there has to be a relationship over the long haul. I think that's one way to decolonize the system and the other day, I had a conversation with Marion Fuller, who's a retired BC Provincial Court Judge, she was the chief Commissioner for them. She and I talked on my podcast about, you know, some of the things that we could do as lawyers, and part of it is also changing our relationship with time. When you're dealing, particularly with Indigenous people, and if you want to involve ceremony and what you're doing, it's going to take time. If you want to build relationships that are meaningful and you know, no further harm, it's going to take time, you should get to know who it is that you are serving. The other piece is centering ceremony is so critical, particularly when you're dealing with something that has had a lot of trauma. So, Marion had talked a lot about how they centered ceremony for every one of the hearings that they did and how they closed all of that and how they leverage the wisdom of the elders to help people through those processes, and I really think in every space, whether it's a law school or a courtroom, we need an elder in that space because they bring so much healing and goodness and humility and wisdom into those spaces. So, if that was my one thing and there's like all these great powers listening to this conversation. Go and hire elders and yes hire them, pay them well, don't just expect that, because you invite them in, they don't need to be compensated, they absolutely do. Reciprocity people, learn it, practice it. Thank you, Nadia.
Dr. Nadia Ferrara:
Exactly. Oh my god, Myrna, you started off with I don't know how to define decolonization and you just like blew it away. So, thank you. Awesome. I mean colonialism as we know was founded on dehumanization and what we're talking about now is so relationship-based, that’s decolonization so thank you, Myrna.
Annette, increasing awareness of citizens' legal rights is important. What supports do you feel are needed for Black victims and survivors of gun violence?
Dr. Annette Bailey:
I would tag along with what Marina has been saying all along. That is the importance of trauma-informed care, trauma-informed responses, trauma-informed grief support. I've conducted gun violence research in Toronto, as well as across Canada and I've done analyses, with victims and stakeholders across 20 countries. In all cases, trauma-informed grief support stood out as the key recommendation for gun violence survivorship across context for both those who are losing multiple friends and family members to gun violence, and for mothers, particularly Black mothers, losing their children to gun violence. We found that trauma-informed care serves almost like a bridge to their healing. For Black survivors, trauma care should be directed from a cultural lens, culturally relevant trauma care gives pays for cultural experiences and responses to trauma events just like Jade mentioned.
And the second thing I would recommend for support is rehabilitative services for injured survivors of gun violence. There are more victims living with gun violence injuries than those who died. For example, in 2020, in Toronto. There were about, there were 462 shootings, and of those only 39 deaths. And so, we don't often think about, or consider those who are injured and the severity of the injuries. The kind of caregiver burden that these injuries present in families. And so, some of these injuries we know cause severe disabilities, especially from the suffering of the spinal cord. The level of care required to impose social and economic challenges on families so there, there should be some considerations around how we support those who are shot and injured, to gun violence.
My last recommendation in terms of support is what I spoke about earlier, in terms of accessible victim services. That includes compensation and counseling services. There needs to be a revaluation of existing victim service policies and protocols to ensure that the definition in Canada of who constitutes a victim, a victim and we know that is persons who, as a result of damage to property or economic harm. They should be given the respect of services, and this definition should not vary based on the perceived worthiness of the victim. So that would be my recommendation.
Dr. Nadia Ferrara:
Thank you, very valid recommendations, and I appreciate you sharing that with us for sure.
Fo, in your work, who do you see as vulnerable victims, and what actions can you take to better protect the rights of vulnerable persons?
Well, in addition to the definition that Professor Bailey just provided, victims and in my work, I deal with a lot of people with civil rights violations, racism, sexual violence, race violence, even violence by the state. So, I tend to define vulnerability based on that person's perspective. And this is not just physical, financial, or material vulnerability. We have to pay more attention to the psychological vulnerability and also the emotional vulnerability of course. Sometimes you know, the person at the end where they are in the equation of the power relationship, either vis-a-vis the state or vis-a-vis the individuals and collectivities. I think we need to remember that particularly in the relationship between the individual and the institution. Vulnerable victims are certainly, you know we tend to talk about vulnerable victims of crime as I mentioned earlier from an intersection perspective, there are many people with different characteristics who they are, what they have, or even don't have defined their status of vulnerability. But one of the things that I think we have all spoken to in the last hour or so is that we have to start from where the person in front of us is. We have to listen to, and we have to look at the person, as a human being first. I think no matter what the words we use, we must not lose sight of the system that are created by humans, especially dealing with crime to support humans so we need to ensure that they are to be humanized. The moment that anybody comes before an institution or dealing with the legal, the justice system. When the moment they become a file or a file number, we lose a bit of humanity in the process. So, this is how I look at it at the very humanistic approach, and very basic thing that I think everyone can understand if we believe still in human values, and the dignity of human beings.
Now how do we go about doing that? I think to recognize the rights of vulnerable victims, we have to know what their rights are. And I think the Constitution and the Charter of Rights, particularly the equality clause provides a foundation from which to understand where people are, where victims are, and what their rights are, because often it is about, meaning, giving life meaning, and breathing new life to the notion of those constitutional rights and freedom. We talk about the right to life, security and dignity, the right to equality, and the right, among other things, to be treated as human beings, whether you're equal or equitable, but I think, overall, we have to recognize it behind all these hats and all these characteristics, we have, there's a human being there. In search of support, in search of assistance, in search of protection, and in search of just reparation. And then from there, if we understand those values, I think we can be more successful and more human in the way we deal with Victims of Crime, victims of any form of exploitation of injustice.
Dr. Nadia Ferrara:
A human-centric approach for sure. Thank you, Fo, I appreciate that.
Now one last question that's directed to all the panelists. We know that despite clear evidence of racial bias in the criminal justice system, very little has been done to correct it and we've heard this, the past hour and a half. Over-policing of racialized and low-income communities continues and reinforces biases that lead to anti-Black discrimination within policing and disparities in police tactics such as racial profiling and carding. We know that Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQIAA plus persons continue to be over-policed and under-protected as a group. What actions must be taken now to truly make the transformational change needed to uproot systemic racism and decolonize the justice system? I'll ask that each of you speak for about two minutes each, Jade first to you then we'll go to Myrna, then Annette, and then Fo to respond. Jade.
All right. Um, yeah, those are some big questions and I think that's once again the complexity here as we all share. Well, I think, first off, there needs to be. We need to move from being reactive to proactive, we continue to have a system that's reactive to things happening when we know they're going to happen. We should be addressing those first and foremost, and that's what we see systemically. But most of all, we should be believing those who come forward who have the strength and courage to speak to their experience. So nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up is what our film is called but it's also a value that we hold within us in that we have value to share, that we are valued and we will stand up so even though in that one moment, I might have accommodated the ego of the system and the people enforcing it, I will always stand up and I hope that by sharing our story that we give strength to other families and other people to voice exactly what you're going through because the only way we're going to learn is if we know the truth. And for those who are in denial of the truth, you know, that's where the work needs to be done. So, we have a system that upholds the status quo and white supremacy and continues to conduct colonialism in Canada, it is still very much present. So, instead of questioning and challenging, those who come forward and speak about the oppression of the systems at hand. We need to look at what is being said and ask questions and learn about it individually, collectively, and systemically. And ultimately, this is my opinion, you cannot decolonize the Canadian legal systems. They were built on colonialism and are sustaining colonialism, as we speak. So, if anything needs to be dismantled and we should be taking a look at the Indigenous peoples and the systems we have and revitalize those.
Dr. Nadia Ferrara:
Thank you. Great point. Thank you, Jade. Myrna?
Okay, I'm, I agree with Jade, about dismantling the system, I think I use more aggressive language sometimes I'm like, we just need to burn it down to start over. But we know that's not going to happen right, it's not going to happen, it's not going to happen in policing, it's not going to happen in the judiciary, it's not going to happen in law schools and who law societies turn out to practice law in our community. So, I think until or unless that kind of event happens. I think we need to ask ourselves as people who uphold these systems and are part of these systems and I've been fortunate to meet a lot of forward-thinking, folks who agree that we need to move beyond assimilation, when we talk about diversity and inclusion bringing people in like Fo talked earlier about tokenism right like instead of just bringing people in who look different, or who are representative of different populations, we actually need to think about transformation. We don't want to just look different. We want to be different. We want our systems to promote the values of the diverse populations that we serve and the diverse people that we serve. So, it's not enough to appoint more Indigenous judges, as my friend Harry LaForme says we don't want judges who identify as Indigenous. We want Indigenous judges who actually build out these relationships based on their cultures and their values, and their languages and their laws and bring that understanding to the work that they do. And so, I think we need to think about moving beyond assimilation going to place transformation. And in terms of policing. But all of it lawyering, policing, serving as a judge. I think that we need to recruit people from these communities, and then put them back to work in those communities because it comes back to relationships. We need to be in relationships with the people we serve. It's really hard to dehumanize and disrespect your neighbor, your cousin, the auntie of someone who lives in the next community. You know it's really hard to be dehumanizing when you're in a relationship with people. So, I think that's something that's what we should really be thinking about.
Dr. Nadia Ferrara:
Excellent. Thank you, Marina. Totally agree. Annette?
Well, Nadia, you come up with the most complex questions, that's for sure. So, you're essentially asking the question of how we uproot racism from a massive old age-old well-cemented structure that is built brick by brick on racist perspective. That this is a structure that continues to disproportionately affect Blacks and Indigenous people with harsh and discriminatory policies and practices, and a system that re-traumatizes groups, without empathy for their lived experience and their human rights, and so like Myrna says, burn it down. I say I'm going to be a little bit gentler we just break it and reconstruct it. And this here though. They all sound very complex but reconstructing the system really is about infusing the policies with equity considerations. One of the things that Fo said, is the importance of undergoing race-based intersectionality analysis to understand their material, the material consequences on racialized people. And this is a conscious and deliberate review of the assessment of the justice system to see where racism dominates policy decisions and policies have not considered the context of people's life. It's about considering equity in judicial policies, equity, we know considers that where people come from and how the experiences have an impact on their trajectories and their limitations, and their access. So, I don't have anything specific, but I believe that if you want to break our system. And if you want to break it down, I mean burn it down. You start with the policies. But that's not enough, because one of the pushbacks that you will get in a system that people have become very comfortable with, is that they don't want the policy to change. And so wide education and training at different levels of the system around anti-racism, implicit and unconscious bias that engages experiences of people who are most affected by the system need to happen and I say that with the recognition that education may not really cut it. Education will not be met. These mental broader systemic structures and tendencies of racism in the system, but we have to start somewhere.
Dr. Nadia Ferrara:
Thank you, Annette, and the reason I asked these tough questions, as I have complete faith in all of my panelists today to answer them and clearly, you've proven me right so thank you.
Fo, over to you for the last few minutes before we go to closing the event, go ahead Fo.
That's quite a burden and challenge to follow these great speakers. I feel so humble. I recall the words of an American president who talks about the government of the people, for the people, and by the people. And I think that as long as we have a system that is not for the people, by the people, you know, of the people, the system will always fail. So, I would answer your question by saying the transformational change will come from the people. So, I think our job, our respective jobs are to ensure that people, whoever they are, have that means, the power, resources, and voice to demand change in the system. To demand that they be part of the system and that the system will be made for them, about them, and by them so that's why I continue to believe that in the end, we need to organize individuals, families, and communities, to ensure that that you know whatever is in front of them whatever institution system, it has to work for them, had to work with them, and it has to be accountable to them. So that's the only way they can achieve, you know, a broad section of change for every segment of the Canadian society and population. I would like to end as I think in the end, it's those values and principles in our Constitution and then our Charter of Rights will hopefully help bring about this change in the system. And I refer again to that notion of the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination based on different characteristics. I think that will be possibly the longest-lasting vision and guiding principle that can help us bring about that transformation change.
Dr. Nadia Ferrara:
Wonderful, thank you so much Fo and I so agree. Thank you again. Thank you to all the panelists. I will ask Heidi to provide a short summary of the panelists’ remarks today. Heidi.
Heidi Illingworth, Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime:
Oh, my goodness I'm just sitting here overwhelmed with all of the words spoken today by our amazing panelists. I just want to offer my sincere thank you to, starting with you Jade, for sharing your family story, for sharing Colton’s story, Coco’s story, and I know this is not easy to do, but you are standing up, your family is standing up and you're, you know, hoping to educate others and actually change the system and prevent others from suffering as you guys have and you know we stand with you and support you and thank you so much for being here.
Myrna all the work you're doing with lawyers to bring cultural humility and trauma-informed practice to our courtrooms, to judges and lawyers. I think it's so amazing. And we need, absolutely more of that.
Fo, I appreciate so much, your perspective and the work you're doing at the community level with survivors. And as you said humanizing the system is where we need to go, respect for human rights. We need to bring that back as the basis for how people are treated as victims and survivors in this country.
And Annette, your research and your work with families is amazing and we need to hear more about how Black families are struggling in the aftermath. Of course, they're resilient in seeking change but we need to uplift their voices too, to show how they're disproportionately affected by gun violence.
I think all of you have mentioned how we need to ensure cultural culturally appropriate support services in the aftermath of violence, whether you're Black, Indigenous, from other racialized communities. This is so critical. And so, my hope that everyone tuning in today and most, most importantly, those of us who are in privileged positions, who are settlers, that we recognize our responsibility to dismantle systemic racism and depression and decolonize our institutions. So, those of us like me who are privileged, our experiences in life may give us the impression that the law is just as equal and fair. But this is not reality and I think we've heard that again today that people of color do not feel safe accessing justice. They have chronic experiences of microaggressions and discrimination. These colonial roots from our institutions have been designed in such a way that they oppressed and for the marginalized folks. I think we've had some great suggestions for action we can take to uproot, some of the colonial power structures that we have. You know that is ongoing. I know as a leader I really want to try to follow the lead of those who are most impacted by violence and injustice. And that I can try to shift the power that I have in order to uplift and help others. And so, my office is continuing to call for the transformation of our Justice System or our legal system, which is more appropriate we've heard today. We want to see trauma-informed approaches that are inclusive and understanding of how people present when they have experienced violence and trauma, like Myrna said, again and again, we need to see increased accountability for those who suffer harm and violence. And we need more restorative approaches and bringing, I think looking at that, Indigenous lens and how we can indigenize our justice system to bring in elders, to bring in that wisdom of putting people first, building relationships as a solution to crime and violence and trauma and how we deal with it. We know that restorative practice is more satisfactory to victims, that they feel that their voices are heard, that they can seek accountability for the harm, and they feel much more satisfied with the outcomes.
So, let's move towards recognizing and acknowledging these power imbalances that exist within our justice system and we can develop a plan to address them. And if we truly want to eliminate the over-representation of Black, Indigenous, people of color, both as victims and offenders in our justice system. We can do it, but it is going to require significant change and evolution. But now is the time I think, events across the country recently, reiterating that now is the time. So, let's see decolonize our approach. Let's strengthen victims’ rights, and again I want to thank everyone who joined us from across the country today for this virtual gathering. Merci beaucoup, Miigwetch. Nadia, back to you.
Dr. Nadia Ferrara:
Thank you, Heidi, for your heartfelt words and your leadership, of course, as the event comes to a close, I want to thank Elder Claudette, who unfortunately had to leave for another meeting, but she really helped ground us today for this great discussion. I want to wholeheartedly thank all the panelists, Jade, Myrna, Annette, and Fo your brilliance. We've created a coalition here, a coalition of sorts that can definitely affect transformational change so thank you for joining us today, your expertise, your insights have definitely enlightened us all. Big wholehearted and warm thanks to my small but mighty team. I love you all, and to the tech support, English, French, and sign language interpreters we couldn't do this without you. Merci beaucoup. Thanks to all of you for joining us and contributing today to this virtual event.
We appreciate that you have all took the time to join us. We appreciate your continued support.
As I said, we will be hosting additional sessions in the coming months where you'll have further opportunities to share your views and feedback. Most importantly, thank you to the victims and survivors who have engaged with our office, shared their lived experiences, and continue to inform our work. You will all be receiving a short survey from us so please take a few minutes to complete it and share your feedback. This will help shape our upcoming sessions.
Together we can make a difference for victims and survivors of crime. I truly believe that in my heart and soul. Remember to be gentle with each other and listen with your heart.
Miigwetch, merci, Thank you.