Indigenous residents in Kelowna will be able to access “culturally appropriate justice services” by the end of this year.
Earlier this week, the BC First Nations Justice Council announced five new Indigenous Justice Centres that are being built across the province, in Kelowna, Surrey, Vancouver, Victoria and Nanaimo.
The council says the centres will help provide Indigenous members of the community “culturally appropriate” information, advice, support, and legal services.
“We are unwinding and undoing the powerful and destructive effects that the current justice system has had on our relatives,” said Rosalie Yazzie, acting chair of the BCFNJC.
“Through strong Indigenous leadership, a team of valued, subject-matter experts and experienced competent staff members, we are pushing forward to create a better justice system for First Nations peoples.”
There are currently three operating Indigenous Justice Centres across B.C. in Merritt, Prince Rupert, Prince George, and a fourth one will be opened in Chilliwack this spring.
The site will also see Continuing Professional Development events for lawyers and paralegals that will focus on proper applications of Gladue principles across the existing criminal legal system.
One virtual Indigenous Justice Centre is also available online, which provides no-cost legal services to Indigenous people regardless of where they live.
The BCFNJC says the Kelowna site is expected to open its doors by the end of 2023. Initial site visits to the five new locations will take place between April 3 and May 5, although an exact location of the Kelowna site has yet to be determined.
Last November, Premier David Eby announced the provincial government will fully invest in the establishment and long-term operation of ten new IJCs over the next two years.