What is a Gladue or Indigenous Peoples Court?

Gladue Court is a special court for people charged with a crime and who self-identify as Indigenous, Métis, First Nations, or Inuit. Gladue Court is also called Indigenous Peoples Court.

Gladue Courts deal with all criminal offences. Usually they only handle hearings and sentencing hearings. Gladue Courts don’t handle trials or preliminary hearings.

Gladue Courts are Canadian courts that apply Canadian law. They often try to incorporate Indigenous cultural practices and understandings of justice. For example, a Gladue Court might start with a smudging ceremony or have Elders or Knowledge Keepers start with a song or prayer.

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.

Gladue principles

Even if you’re not in a Gladue Court, the Gladue principles apply.

Gladue principles require all courts to take into account:

  • your Indigenous background, and
  • the impact and history of discrimination against Indigenous people by Canada and the criminal justice system, also called systemic discrimination.

This means at sentencing hearings, all alternatives to jail must be considered before a jail is given. Jail is a last resort. And when a jail sentence is given, the court must apply Gladue principles to the length of the sentence.

And in Ontario, at bail hearings, all types of releases must be considered. Detention, or holding an accused without bail, is a last resort.

With your permission, your lawyer will tell the court about your Indigenous identity. Your background information is sometimes called Gladue factors. Your lawyer must also make arguments, called Gladue submissions, based on how the Gladue principles apply to your case.

Courthouses might have different practices in their Gladue Court. Speak to your lawyer, , or an Indigenous court worker to find out more.

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