Aboriginal Court is a unique initiative of the Saskatchewan Provincial Court, and is modeled after the Cree Court. Aboriginal Court is a circuit court that conducts hearings entirely or partially in Cree or Dene. The Court handles adult and youth criminal matters, child protection hearings and offences relating to provincial statutes such as traffic, liquor and wildlife violations.
Aboriginal Court sits at circuit points across northwestern Saskatchewan. These include Canoe Lake First Nation, Big Island Lake Cree Territory, Birch Narrows First Nation (Turnor Lake), Buffalo River First Nation and English River First Nation. The Court travels to each point up to five times monthly from its base in Meadow Lake.
How it Works
Aboriginal Court operates in a manner similar to other Provincial Court circuits. The judge, clerks and court workers speak Cree and Dene. Accused persons may have access to Cree- or Dene-speaking Legal Aid lawyers. Depending on availability, there may also be a Cree- or Dene-speaking Crown prosecutor.
While lawyers will generally argue in English, the accused may address the Court in English, Cree or Dene. The judge will explain the charge in one of the languages, depending on the needs of the accused.
Cree or Dene 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 values regarding respect for one’s family and community in addition to the sentencing principles in the Criminal Code and Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Benefits of Aboriginal Court
The benefits of Aboriginal Court include:
- Enable the Court to communicate with an accused in a manner suited to his or her language and cultural needs;
- Encourage the participation of community leaders in the criminal justice system, recognizing the community’s role in supporting both the victims and the accused;
- Incorporate traditional values into sentences, making them more responsive to the needs of particular communities;
- Affirm the Court’s position as a local institution with an interest in building a safe and healthy society in Saskatchewan’s North; and
- Acknowledge 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:
Meadow Lake Provincial Court
Ph: (306) 236-9800