The Commission on First Nations and Métis Peoples and Justice Reform was announced on November 15, 2001, and was mandated to address concerns over the treatment of First Nations and Métis people by the justice system and in particular police services. The Justice Reform Commission was partnered with the government of Canada, the province of Saskatchewan, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and the Métis Nation— Saskatchewan, and was made up of five members (Willy Littlechild, Joe Quewezance, Hugh Harradence, Glenda Cooney and Irene Fraser). The Commission submitted its final report, entitled “Legacy of Hope,” on June 21, 2004, and included 122 recommendations. The report identified racism among provincial police forces as a major reason why Indigenous people misunderstand and mistrust the justice system.

Among the recommendations were suggestions on how to eliminate racism in policing through better screening of police candidates, increased training of officers already employed and a more proactive strategy to recruit First Nations and Métis officers. Also included in the recommendations was a call for an independent complaints agency, the construction of a number of emergency detox centres, sentencing alternatives, a court to deal with issues such as addictions, fetal alcohol syndrome, and family violence, and an investigation into why incarceration rates are so high among Indigenous youth.

Rob Nestor