Quebec’s inquiry into relations with Indigenous people has often focused on the negative, particularly with the legal system.
But Thursday’s testimony was centred on a possible solution: First Nations taking justice into their own hands.
Akwesasne did just that last year, testified Joyce King, director of Akwesasne’s department of justice.
“We made a historical statement saying we have a court that is separate from Canada and the provinces,” said King.
It did so in what can only be described as jurisdictional nightmare, as Akwesasne is a territory on the Canada/United States border that is partly in New York, Ontario and Quebec.
The court allows it to handle lesser crimes with restorative justice practices where deemed appropriate, while major crimes like murder are handled off territory.
“So restorative justice means bring balance back into the community, if you have done something wrong, how are you either going to mitigate it, or make up for what you have done?” said King.
Kahnawake Mohawk Territory isn’t far behind Akwesasne.
In 2015, they enacted its own justice act and are currently implementing it.
“We know that Quebec system of justice doesn’t necessarily work well for everyone, it doesn’t always take into consideration customs, traditions and practices,” testified Kevin Fleisher, justice commissioner of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake.
King did have one piece of advice for other First Nations.
“No one gives you authority, you have to take it,” she said.