What does Gladue mean?

The word Gladue is taken from the name of an important court case decided by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1999. In the Gladue case, the Supreme Court of Canada said:

  • The high number of Indigenous people in prisons and institutions across Canada is a serious issue that courts must consider.
  • There are systemic or background factors that courts must think about when sentencing an Indigenous person.
  • Jail should be the court’s last choice when sentencing an Indigenous person.

The court recognized that because of the history of discrimination by Canada and the criminal justice system, also called systemic discrimination, Indigenous people are more likely to be sentenced to jail. As a result, there are higher numbers of Indigenous people in jails.

To address this discrimination, courts must look at an Indigenous accused’s background and the impact of discrimination on them when deciding on a sentence. This means, at sentencing hearings, the court must look at all alternatives to jail before deciding to give a jail . Jail is a last resort. And when a jail sentence is given, the court must apply Gladue principles when deciding the length of the sentence.   

Ontario courts have said that Gladue principles also apply when deciding if an Indigenous person should be released on bail. This means at hearings, the court must look at all types of releases. Detention, or holding an accused without bail, is a last resort.

If you identify as Indigenous, it’s important that you tell your lawyer or . With your permission, your lawyer can tell the court about your Indigenous identity. Your background information is sometimes called Gladue factors.

Examples of Gladue factors include:

  • Is the accused person or someone in their family a residential school survivor?
  • Is the accused person or someone in their family affected by the “Sixties Scoop“, where the government removed Indigenous children from their homes?
  • Was the accused person put in a foster home or involved in the child protection system?
  • Has the accused person experienced poverty?
  • Has the accused person or someone in their family experienced racism, trauma, childhood abuse, violence, or addictions?

Your lawyer can also make arguments to show how the Gladue principles apply to you. This is called making “Gladue submissions”. Examples of Gladue submissions include:

  • Has the accused person experienced systemic discrimination in their or ? For example, were they removed from their community so they could be brought to court?
  • Will a jail sentence have an unreasonable or unfair effect on the accused person?

Gladue Courts

Gladue Court, or Indigenous Peoples Court, is a special court for people who self-identify as Indigenous and are charged with a crime. Gladue Courts usually only handle bail hearings and sentencing hearings.

Some courthouses have only one day or a few days that Gladue Court is available each week. But every court must apply the Gladue principles even if it’s not a Gladue Court.

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