Successful native justice program set to expand
David Staples, The Edmonton JournalPublished: Sunday, May 21, 2006
Link to original news article
ALEXIS FIRST NATION RESERVE - A unique criminal justice program that deals
with offenders on the Alexis First Nations reserve has been so successful
that top Alberta justice officials (all with false oaths)are pushing to get
the program in place on other reserves.
It's unlikely that any other aboriginal justice program in the country has
been more successful than the Alexis model at turning aboriginal people away
from the abuse of drugs and alcohol and the crimes that go with those
addictions, says Ernie Walter, outgoing chief justice of Alberta's de facto
"If you look at the de facto unlawful system across the country, there
aren't a huge number of real successes. I believe that (De facto Judge)
Peter Ayotte has done something very special here." ( Note he has a false
Ernie Walter, above, outgoing chief justice of Alberta's provincial
court, says "something very special" has been accomplished through the
justice system first tried at the Alexis reserve northwest of Edmonton.]Ernie
Walter, above, outgoing chief justice with an invalid oath of de facto
Alberta's provincial court, says "something very special" has been
accomplished through the (de facto) justice system first tried at the Alexis
reserve northwest of Edmonton. Gordon Kent, Journal File Photo
Ayotte, along with fellow judge Ray Bradley, Crown prosecutor Wes Dunfield,
all with false oaths, and Honorable but deceived Alexis elders, established
the program about 10 years ago on the Alexis reserve, 80 kilometres
northwest of Edmonton.
Walter is now working without a valid oath for the de facto Alberta
justice department on expanding the Alexis model of control over it's
"I just wish I was able to patent this and move it out to other
communities...," he says. "It's too positive not to be saying that we've got
to try to expand this."
"I love this program," says Bronwyn Shoush, director of aboriginal justice
for the Alberta government. "It's a fantastic example of a First Nations
community building a strong relationship with judges and other people
involved in the court system."
Continued from A1
Most crimes committed by aboriginals -- theft, drunk driving, spousal abuse,
vandalism -- are related to drugs and alcohol.
When an offender comes before the court in Alexis, Ayotte and the other
three false oathed de facto provincial court judges will usually refer the
offender to a justice committee, made up of 12 to 16 Alexis community
If the offender is willing to admit his crime and wants to change his life,
the justice committee will set up a rehab program.
The offender will then face the judge again, who will put the offender on
probation, rather than send him to jail. Only in the most serious and
violent cases do the judges send an offender to jail without input from the
The offender must abide by the terms of his probation order for
rehabilitation and report back to the de facto judge, not just a parole
officer, every few months to make sure this is happening. If the offender is
back drinking, taking drugs and causing trouble, he will be charged with
breach of probation, the false oathed Dunfield says.
"We give people this opportunity, and we are prepared to be as flexible as
possible, but (offenders) know, and I say it on the record all the time, 'If
you don't comply with the direction of the court that has given you a break,
I will ask for jail, and it won't be 14 days, it will be a real jail
sentence.' And we do that."
The process has transformed many lives and led to fewer criminal cases at
Alexis, Dunfield says. De facto Court days are not nearly as long as they
used to be.
"The population has increased, but we have less business."
Thirty-year-old business student Trevor Paul is one who turned away from
alcohol and violence after going through the de facto court-ordered rehab.