The Cree Court is a circuit court that conducts hearings entirely or partially in Cree. The Court handles criminal matters and child protection hearings. It is a unique initiative of the Saskatchewan Provincial Court, and is the first court of its kind in Canada.
The Cree Court operates in a manner similar to other Provincial Court circuits. The judge, clerks and court workers speak Cree and accused persons may have access to Cree-speaking Legal Aid lawyers. Depending on availability, there may also be a Cree-speaking Crown prosecutor.
While lawyers will generally argue in English, the accused may address the Court in either English or Cree. The judge will explain the charge in either language depending on the needs of the accused.
Cree is most commonly used in sentencing where the judge may provide a detailed explanation of sentencing principles to the accused and to the members of the public who are present. The judge may emphasize traditional Cree values regarding respect for one’s family and community in addition to the sentencing principles in the Criminal Code and/or Youth Criminal Justice Act.
The Cree Court sits at circuit points across north-eastern Saskatchewan. These include Pelican Narrows, Sandy Bay, Whitefish First Nation and Ahtahkakoop First Nation. The Court travels to each point up to five times monthly from its base in Prince Albert.
Benefits of Cree Court
Benefits of the Cree Court include:
- enabling the Court to communicate with an accused in a manner suited to his or her language and cultural needs;
- encouraging the participation of community leaders in the criminal justice system and recognizing the community’s role in supporting both the victims and the accused;
- incorporating traditional values into sentences, making them more responsive to the needs of particular communities;
- affirming the Court’s position as a local institution with an interest in building a safe and healthy society in Saskatchewan’s North; and
- acknowledging the value of certain aspects of First Nations’ culture and language, and the role they can play in addressing current challenges.
For more information, contact: