Indigenous Justice Centre in Merritt represents two First Nations coming together | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Indigenous Justice Centre in Merritt represents two First Nations coming together

B.C. Attorney General David Eby speaks at a press conference in Victoria on March 27, 2019.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
September 06, 2020 - 10:29 AM

The B.C. First Nations Justice Council, with the help of the province, has opened the first of 15 Indigenous justice centres in Merritt, Prince George and Prince Rupert, improving access to supports and helping individuals more easily navigate the justice system.

"The Indigenous Justice Centre in Merritt represents two First Nations coming together - Syilx and Nlaka'pamux - to serve all Indigenous peoples in the Nicola Valley,"  Brian Holmes, president, Nicola Valley Community Justice Services Society said, in a press release. "We work with Elders from every community, and we will rely on their guidance to address priorities such as working closely with Corrections Services to support transitions to home communities."

Each of the recently opened centres offers unique supports tailored to the local Indigenous community.

Individuals are able to access legal advice and representation for criminal and child protection matters; advocacy and support in dealing with agencies such as the police and Ministry of Children and Family Development; referrals to relevant agencies and services such as counselling or employment support; information towards better transitions from jail and integration into the community; and restorative justice options to better support and address the needs of those impacted by a crime.

"We are driven by the idea of justice through self-determination," said Douglas White III (Kwulasultun), chair, B.C. First Nations Justice Council, said in the release. "Our model is to ensure the Indigenous justice centres reflect the priorities and unique needs of First Nations in each respective region. The Indigenous justice centres are a transformative pillar of the First Nations Justice Strategy that we expect will make a significant difference in the experiences of Indigenous peoples with the justice system."

The province is currently working with (B.C. First Nations Justice Council) to determine locations for the other centres throughout B.C, with the council planning to develop up to 15 centres over the coming years.

"For too long, Indigenous peoples have been over-represented in our criminal justice system," said David Eby, Attorney General, in the release. "Our Indigenous Justice Strategy, authored in partnership with Indigenous peoples, emphasizes the importance of these new centres as a first step along that path, offering culturally appropriate supports to ensure better outcomes for everyone."

These centres are part of a broader First Nations Justice Strategy that was launched in March 2020. This strategy was created in consultation with First Nations communities throughout B.C and reflects their vision and priorities to transform B.C.'s justice system.

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