2. Learn about available programs

Indigenous is not available in every courthouse. If there is an Indigenous diversion program at your courthouse, you should meet with the Indigenous court worker to see if they can help you with diverting your charges.

In Toronto, Aboriginal Legal Services (ALS) runs the Indigenous court worker program and the Community Council diversion program. Outside of Toronto, there are other Indigenous organizations that may have a diversion program.

Ask your lawyer or if there is an Indigenous court worker at your courthouse and what days they are available. If you’re in , the court worker can meet with you in custody at the courthouse.

If your charges are eligible for diversion and you’re in custody but the Indigenous court worker isn’t available until a certain day, the Crown and court should take that into account when considering your bail. In some areas, the court might want you to address before deciding if you’re eligible for Indigenous diversion.

No Indigenous diversion program

If the courthouse doesn’t have an Indigenous diversion program and you don’t have a lawyer, speak to duty counsel or the Crown. Ask if you can negotiate an informal diversion based on the type of crime you have been charged with and your Indigenous identity. In many cases, the Indigenous court worker can help you to set this up.

If the Crown agrees to an informal diversion, you will have to agree to do things that show you have accepted responsibility. This can include:

  • an apology letter
  • volunteer work
  • counselling or treatment for mental health, addictions, or trauma
  • , for example, paying money back for theft or paying for property damage
  • culturally-appropriate counselling or practices

You might need to come back to court a few times to report on how you are doing with your informal diversion until it is completed.

When you have completed your informal diversion, the Crown might agree to have your criminal charges or , or they might offer a peace bond. You should ask your lawyer or duty counsel to explain what a is and what it means to sign one.

A stay or withdrawal means there is no or criminal conviction. And criminal charges are not added to your criminal record.

But if you get a stay, the Crown can you with the same crime within a year of the stay date. The Crown might do this if you don’t complete the terms of your diversion. If a charge is withdrawn, it’s very hard to bring it back to court, but it can happen in exceptional situations.

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