APTN National News
An Ottawa judge vowed in December to personally find out how an Ojibway man waiting an extra six weeks in the local jail to get a Gladue report done was suddenly transferred to another jurisdiction before it was completed.
Justice Heather Perkins-McVey said she was going to take the matter up with Legal Aid Ontario, a government agency that funds the reports, and the superintendent of the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre.
Perkins-McVey agreed to do so on the urging of the Ojibway man’s lawyer Ewan Lyttle who complained at the sentencing hearing Dec. 15 that it was unacceptable to have an accused agree to wait in jail for a report only to be shipped against his will to another jail in Lindsay, Ontario, over 300 km west of Ottawa.
Lyttle said it was another example of “systemic problems” Indigenous people face in the Ottawa justice system.
“I totally agree with the concerns that you have raised,” Perkins-McVey said according to transcripts of the hearing obtained by APTN National News.
Lyttle said his client agreed to a six to eight week adjournment on sentencing based on a request from the sole Gladue report writer in Ottawa to get the report completed.
“It is critical that jails recognize and respect the process and do not ship offenders to different institutions during the report preparation process,” Lyttle told APTN. “If offenders are shipped out before the preparation is complete, it throws a giant monkey wrench into the process and causes unnecessary and unacceptable complications and delays.”
Lyttle believes his client was transferred around Dec. 6 which only left nine days to get the report done before his sentencing hearing.
When his client was transferred, the writer had not completed the report. Lyttle was told the Ottawa writer wouldn’t complete the report because the man had been moved.
Legal Aid Ontario pays for the reports in Ottawa but contracts Aboriginal Legal Services in Toronto to write them.
Earlier this week, APTN reported lawyers complained of long delays getting a report completed, including Lyttle who said waiting two months for a report is too long.
With his client in another city, Lyttle was left to find a new writer. It turned out Aboriginal Legal Services had another writer in Lindsay but that person also declined to do the report because of time constraints.
Lyttle, who at this point was scrambling to get a report done, asked Legal Aid to pay for the writer he had originally requested to do the report, Mark Marsolais, a First Nations man in Ottawa who owns a Gladue report company.
Legal Aid initially rejected Marsolais to do the report saying all reports had to go through the sole writer it funds through Aboriginal Legal Services.
But with little time, and the courts expecting a report, Legal Aid approved Marsolais in the end.
He got it done in just a few days.
And Perkins-McVey said in court she was impressed by the quality.
“It is a very well written report and it is very comprehensive,” said Perkins-McVey.
Lyttle suggested to the court imagine if Marsolais had six to eight weeks.
“But Mr. Marsolais, and I know that you appreciate his report, got this together in a matter of about three or four days,” Lyttle told Perkins-McVey. “If he had more time, I can’t imagine how more thorough it would have been.”
A Gladue report digs into an Indigenous person’s history and what the effects of colonization, such as residential schools, may have had in them being in court.
The report detailed how the Ojibway man suffered severe sexual abuse while in foster care as a young child in Manitoba, which is why APTN is not naming him.
The local jail had been in the news for more than a year with overcrowding issues that reached the point it had inmates sleeping in showers.
“I will also bring this to the attention of local authorities who are engaged in trying to improve the circumstances of Aboriginal persons in our justice system,” Perkins-McVey said in December.
APTN is not aware of what Perkins-McVey’s efforts accomplished.
As for the Ojibway man, the Crown abandoned its request of a six month sentence for assault and said based on the contents of the Gladue report, the Ojibway man should get time served, which was 83 days at the time.
The judge agreed to time served and put him on probation for 18 months.
Based on the Gladue report, she also urged the man to get into a number of addiction treatment programs.
Before he walked out of the court a free man, Perkins-McVey had one request of him.
“Do you have any objection to me attaching the Gladue report, in a sealed envelope, to the probation order so that the probation officer will be informed about your background and your circumstances?” she asked.
The 36-year-old Ojibway man agreed and later that day walked out of the court with a copy of his life story.
One he was reading for the first time.