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The society we live in today is diversified but still there are many groups that are still going through the struggle for equality, fairness and justice. The world is an unjust place and still it is hard to imagine that the gap between minorities but also the Aboriginal community and the majority British and French Canadian rule is unequal. This is problematic and a downfall for a nation like Canada because it goes to show that in this modern day civilization we live in the playing field for the middle class, the wealthy and Aboriginals and minorities is imbalanced. The criminal justice system approach in dealing with court cases is a true fact that justice is unequal when determining the punishment amongst Aboriginals and minorities in general. In my essay I will be explaining about the justice systems not fair towards Aboriginals and in the case of Donald Marshall Jr. A young native teenager who was convicted of a crime he never committed and spent 11years in prison because of it, do to false accusations and court testimonies. This essay will reflect a miniature on the inequality of the justice system and how it is unfair and not respectful in treating and sentencing cases that involve minorities of different ethnicity of this country but more likely on how the criminal justice system can take a more restorative approach such as Sentencing circles, Healing circles, Peacemaking circles and more rehabilitative and a more of an effective way in dealing with Aboriginals and minority offenders when it comes to sentencing for an offence committed, especially when it can be resolve without prison time.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society (Department of Justice 2009). Canada as nation believes in these rights and freedoms but why are there injustice, inequality and overall discrimination in dealing with minorities in the criminal justice system specifically Aboriginals of our country. This goes to show that what this country prides itself on especially the courts system is that we all are treated equally when determining the proper punishment for crimes committed, but it is not true in cases involving Aboriginals and minorities. Take the case of Donald Marshall Jr. a Native teenager who was tried and convicted by the justices system for a murder he did not commit. In 1971 Donald Marshall Jr. was charged, tried and convicted for a murder he didn't commit. He was guilty of only one thing, presumably not a crime, but being a Mi'kmaq. Marshall was sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering a friend at the time was not true but through the legal justice system and false accusations and testimonies proved different. A man by the name of Roy Esbary, who actually committed the crime and was present at the murder scene, had sold police a story. The story implicated that Marshall was the prime suspect. And with little investigation and with no evidence what so ever, Marshall was deprived of his rights and freedom. This case goes to show how the criminal justices system tends to just make assumption of minorities in determining sentences. And how it loses focus on the implementations of why courts and laws exist. This goes to show the notion that just because youâ€™re different in race and culture; you are presumably guilty of an offence because youâ€™re different from the majority of the population which consists of white Europeans. The Marshall case is an extreme example in which the law is biased in investigating cases but also the persecution of Aboriginals.
Aboriginal and minority cultural factors should be look upon in sentencing for crimes that are not extreme such as murder. A restorative suggestion for Aboriginals would be sentencing circles, peacemaking circle and healing circles which will focus on the need of the offender and on more rehabilitation approach but also a more community involvement of chiefs and elders in determining sentences. This will be a more effective approach because we all know that, First Nations or Aboriginal people have long been disadvantaged by the Canadian Legal System.Â Evidence of this is found in our prisons, where Aboriginal people make up a disproportionate amount of the inmates in numbers far beyond what would be reasonable. One of the biggest difficulties with the criminal justice system for Aboriginal people is the fact that it is oriented toward punishment of the offender in the interests of our society by imposing a term of imprisonment, fines and, less often, forms of restitution and community service (International institute for Restorative Practices 2009). The focus of restorative justice is not on determining guilt and punishment but rather on addressing the harm. In cases of Aboriginals who commit a less indictable offence then traditional methods like the sentencing circle would be an asset in deterring crimes in the community. In Sentencing Circles, the victim, offender, family, and community members, meet with a judge, lawyers, police, and others to recommend to the judge what type of sentence an offender should receive. The victim and the community have the opportunity to express themselves, address the offender, and may also take part in developing and implementing a plan relating to the offender's sentence.
An example of this would be In 2003, Jerome Jack, 43, an Aboriginal man was sentenced to two years house arrest by an Innu community sentencing circle for a brutal assault(CBC News 2010). Instead the Crown wanted him to be sentenced to six years in jail, but was spared by the sentencing circle and was given a second chance by a judge, even though Jack had offended before in the past. The judge was able to see that Jack had made a significant change in his life style, from all the laws he broke and crimes committed in the past and therefore gave him that opportunity. The idea of the sentencing circle proved to be effective in the case of Mr. Jack because it took a more of a rehabilitative and a restorative approach instead of the usual prison sentence which has been proven for decades to be ineffective in dealing with criminals. Restorative justice is also effective and more likely for a criminal to be rein integrative and successful when a high degree of interdependence exists between victim and offender, such as within a family, a group of relatives or the community of which the offender is a member (Criminal Justice in Canada 2009 p.84). Courts believe in reintegration so then there should be a better and a more effective approach in dealing with sentencing of culturally diverse communities such as our Aboriginals. For instance minor offence that involve two people, can have a more of healing circle approach to bring conflict to a close, allow the participants to express their feelings, and indicate that the offender and victim have undergone personal healing. This is more of a better way in dealing with people through the criminal justice system if it would consider a different way of prosecuting offenders instead of the usual punishment of imprisonment.
There are many other ways and factors that should be considered in sentencing culturally diverse people. There are religious factors, certain beliefs that might go against the criminal justice system of this country. All these factors should be looked upon before sentencing a person, but within reasonable, but also the crime committed should reflect on how harsh the punishment is. This is not saying give a person a softer sentence for a serious crime committed because he or she is from a diverse background. But more importantly the criminal justice system should focus additionally into a rehabilitative and more appropriate way for sentencing people of a different origin, if the offence committed is not too serious. The criminal justice system tends to focus on punishment for all crimes, and is forgetting that the actual goal for the system is to deter crime and keep its citizens away from jail. So if you can spare a person for doing jail time through restorative means such as sentencing and healing circles then it should be more looked into besides the usual way of punishing people, most notably our Aboriginals people.