Battle with Legal Aid forces Algonquin mother to pay for son’s Gladue report in Ottawa

Kenneth Jackson
APTN National News
OTTAWAWith time running out and feeling insulted, an Algonquin mother in Ottawa has taken it upon herself to ensure her son gets a Gladue report written before his sentencing next month for armed robbery.

The mother has begun fundraising the money needed to pay for a private company to write the report in Ottawa because she said she never heard from the Ontario government’s writer in Nation’s capital since Justice Ann Alder ordered one for her 16-year-old son on Feb. 5.

Her son’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Mar. 23.

“I don’t know what he’s doing but it takes a few seconds to just pick up the phone, dial a number and leave a message,” said the mother who APTN National News can’t identify because her son is a young offender.

She’s referring to Chad Kicknosway, a writer employed through Aboriginal Legal Services Toronto (ALST) who is funded by Legal Aid Ontario.

“I gave (Kicknosway) a call and he has not called me yet. Sentencing is coming up and I don’t think he’ll have the time to interview everyone and write the report. I want a good report for my son,” she said.

Instead of waiting, she decided Wednesday evening to start fundraising in her home community of Lac Simon First Nation in Quebec.

She’s hired IndiGenius, a company in Ottawa that has been writing Gladue reports for about seven months and earned the praise of judges and lawyers.

A Gladue report examines an offenders history, such as where they came from, what they have been through and basically what may have led to them to the courts. They’re known as the Gladue principles. Often judges learn of trauma due to colonization and residential schools. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 1999 that judges must apply the principles and look for alternatives to incarceration at sentencing.

It was a matter of luck but several months ago when her son was first appearing in court IndiGenius co-founder Mark Marsolais was there too and met the mom and son.

“Mark has been there from the very beginning. He cares and I know he can get the report my son needs,” said the mom, adding she tried to go with IndiGenius from the get-go but was told she had to go with Kicknosway.

It turns out the mother and son found themselves in the middle of a behind-the-scenes battle with Legal Aid and IndiGenius, a private company that writes Gladue reports.

Legal Aid had been funding IndiGenius since the summer but slowly began shutting the door on using the private company. That’s because last fall it commissioned ALST to provide a Gladue writer in Ottawa as part of an increase in funding across the province to provide more Gladue reports.

ALST, led by Jonathan Rudin, has been a leader in writing Gladue reports in Ontario for more than a decade.

APTN tried to reach Kicknosway for more than a week with no success.

A spokeswoman for Legal Aid said he works out of the Wabano Health Centre but the receptionist there not only didn’t have a number for him but didn’t know who he was. He’s supposed to have been working there since September.

The mother went to Wabano this week looking for him and left a letter saying she didn’t want to wait any longer and wanted IndiGenius to do the report.

APTN reached out to his superior at ALST who said Kicknosway wouldn’t be commenting.

“I don’t want to get into a fight into who is doing what. That’s not our interest. We’re just doing reports when we’re asked to do reports by the court,” said Rudin, who is called upon by many lawyers across the country to speak on the issue of Gladue principles. “We’re just going to do the work we’re asked to do.”

Rudin declined to comment on the mother’s case and said they’d discuss it with her.

“This is something we’re going to work out,” he said.

He’s also going to find out why the mother never heard from Kicknosway.

For the mother, it’s just a matter of getting a report done by the person she wants.

“I’m really frustrated they don’t want to use Mark (Marsolais). They’re trying to make us go through (ALST), she said.

According to Legal Aid there’s a protocol for who does the Gladue reports in Ottawa. They’ve asked Ottawa courts to order reports through ALST.

“That’s the first stop. That’s where we want people to go first,” said Nye Thomas, director general of policy and strategic research at Legal Aid. “If (ALST is) unable to write a report for some reason … and there is another report writer, say IndiGenius, available we’ll fund that organization to write a report.”

Thomas was then asked what if a client or a parent doesn’t want to use Legal Aid’s “first stop” for any reason, can they go with a company of their choice to get a Gladue done?

“It depends that’s all I can say. The policy allows for certain exceptions but depends on the specific facts,” he said.

He then said that question was better suited for ALST but when pressed on the issue of ALST being a contactor and Legal Aid provides the funding he confirmed there is a choice.

“We want people to go to ALST as our first choice and if ALST is unable to do it and then you have lots of different reasons why they are unable to do it, including potentially the clients or the family’s choice,” he said.

When it comes to the specifics of this mother’s case Thomas said due to privacy he couldn’t speak to it.

Marsolais would like to know why lawyers keep telling him Legal Aid won’t fund reports through IndiGenius.

“If there’s a choice then why have so many lawyers, in the last couple of months, kept telling us they can’t go with us?” he said.

“And clients do. They specifically ask for us. We’re getting a lot of calls. Word has spread about the quality of our work.”

Regardless, Marsolais is interviewing the mother’s son Tuesday and intends to have a report completed before sentencing.

The cost is between $1,500 to $2,000.

“I’m just so relieved Mark is going to do it,” said the mother.

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Investigative Reporter

Kenneth Jackson is based in Ottawa, Ont. and has worked more than two decades in the business. He got his start in community newspapers before joining the Ottawa Sun in 2007 where he worked the police beat.

In 2011, Jackson joined APTN to break the Bruce Carson scandal with Jorge Barrera that sparked three federal investigations into the former senior advisor to then Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Carson was later convicted of fraud sparking a court battle to the Supreme Court of Canada. The conviction was upheld and based entirely on APTN’s investigation.

Jackson has focused, almost exclusively, on the child welfare system in Ontario over the last five years. The work has earned multiple awards, including the 2020 Michener Award.

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