Ceremony to Be Held Marking Grand Opening of Nova Scotia Indigenous Court

WAGMATCOOK, N.S.—A ceremony is scheduled for today to mark the grand opening of a unique court on Nova Scotia’s Wagmatcook First Nation.

The Nova Scotia Judiciary says the court in Cape Breton is the first of its kind in the province and among only a few in the country that incorporates Indigenous restorative justice traditions and customs through its programs.

Nova Scotia Chief Justice Michael MacDonald and Wagmatcook Chief Norman Bernard are expected to speak at the event today, and Premier Stephen McNeil is also expected to attend.

The judiciary says the creation of the court is in line with a 1989 Marshall Inquiry recommendation calling for more provincial court sittings on Nova Scotia reserves, as well as calls to action outlined in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report.

The Wagmatcook courthouse offers programs including a Gladue court, which refers to a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that requires courts to take Aboriginal circumstances into account when handing down a sentence.

It also offers a healing and wellness court, dedicated to Indigenous offenders who plead guilty or accept responsibility for their actions and are at a high risk to reoffend.

“This court program will look at the underlying factors that contribute to the person coming into conflict with the law,” the judiciary said on its website.

“The sentencing process is delayed approximately 12 to 24 months to allow time for the offender to proceed through this healing plan.”

The judiciary says the court model was developed in close consultation with the First Nations community.

“It will be guided and supported by Aboriginal justice concepts, procedures and resources, which will help ensure it is meeting the individualized needs of Indigenous people coming before the court,” the website said.

The design of the court is also unique. The bench is shaped like a circle—a symbol in the Indigenous community representing the Aboriginal medicine wheel and the court’s restorative justice approach.

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