Suspension of Parole Board of Canada Elder-Assisted Hearings
Date: August 11, 2020
Branch / Agency: Parole Board of Canada
- Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restricted access to correctional institutions, the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) is currently holding conditional release hearings by videoconference or by teleconference, where applicable.
- Correctional Service of Canada recently made the decision to allow limited access to penitentiaries for specific activities, including Elder Assisted Hearings.
- Following consultation with its national network of Indigenous advisors and Elders, the PBC will implement options for resuming Elder-Assisted Hearings in the Fall.
- Given that Elder-Assisted Hearings are normally held in a circle, with an Elder performing Indigenous cultural protocols and spiritual ceremonies, the PBC is sensitive to the fact that hearings held in conformity with public health restrictions may not align exactly with expectations of some Indigenous offenders or Elders.
- The PBC remains committed to offering a culturally adapted and responsive hearing process for Indigenous offenders.
The Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) requires that policies adopted by the PBC relating to conditional release reviews are responsive to the needs of various groups of offenders with special requirements, including Indigenous offenders.
Although not specifically provided for in legislation, the PBC provides culturally adapted hearing options for Indigenous offenders and non-Indigenous offenders who are committed to an Indigenous way of life. These offenders can request that their review proceed by way of an Elder-Assisted Hearing. The objective is to create a responsive hearing process for Indigenous offenders, while adhering to the established criteria for decision-making.
The role of the PBC Elder/Cultural Advisor is to provide Parole Board members with information about the specific culture and traditions of the offender’s Indigenous community, and about Indigenous cultures, experiences and traditions in general. The Elder is not involved in making the decision.
Over recent years, the number of Elder-Assisted Hearings has increased steadily. In 2019-2020, the PBC conducted 743 Elder-Assisted Hearings, an increase from 720 in 2018-2019 and 681 in 2017-2018.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restricted access to institutions, the PBC is currently holding conditional release hearings by videoconference or by teleconference where no video is available.
As a result, the PBC had suspended Elder-Assisted Hearings until in-person hearings could resume. During this time, offenders were able to choose to proceed with a regular hearing, or they could request to postpone the hearing until it becomes possible to conduct an Elder-Assisted Hearing. They could also choose to proceed with an Elder as their assistant at the hearing.
Correctional Service of Canada is slowly lifting restrictions on the entry of individuals into institutions for specific activities such as Chaplaincy. The PBC has developed, in consultation with Elders and Indigenous community leaders, options for conducting Elder Assisted Hearings in conformity with public health restrictions in CSC institutions, with a view to scheduling such reviews in the Fall.
However, given that Elder-Assisted Hearings are normally held in a circle, with an Elder performing Indigenous cultural protocols and spiritual ceremonies, the PBC is sensitive to the fact that hearings conducted in conformity with public health restrictions, such as with some participants participating remotely, may not meet the expectations of some Indigenous offenders or Elders.
The PBC remains committed to offering a culturally adapted and responsive hearing process for Indigenous offenders.
Prepared by: Mark Montreuil, A/Director, Public Affairs and Partnerships – 343-542-5996
Approved by: Daryl Churney, Executive Director General – 613-404-4344
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