The BC First Nations Justice Council (BCFNJC) hosted its annual First Nations Justice Forum in Vancouver from March 6-8, 2023. The forum served as an opportunity to bring together First Nations leaders, Rights holders, Knowledge Keepers, and subject matter experts in British Columbia with an in-depth understanding of Indigenous justice to set priorities for the road ahead in advancing implementation of the BC First Nations Justice Strategy.This was the first annual forum since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the first since the provincial endorsement of the First Nations Justice Strategy in February 2020.
Budget 2023/24 included the announcement of funding over the next two years to open an additional 10 Indigenous Justice Centres (IJCs) in the province. Operated by the BCFNJC, IJCs provide culturally appropriate information, advice, support and legal representation on criminal and child protection matters directly to Indigenous people at the community level. They take a holistic approach to client and community wellness by facilitating client connections to supports such as housing, mental health and addictions treatment and employment services. IJCs currently operate in-person in Merritt, Prince George and Prince Rupert, as well as a virtual IJC that clients across the province can access regardless of location. Collectively, the IJCs have helped more than 400 individuals since 2020. The locations for the next five IJCs scheduled to open have been identified as Kelowna, Nanaimo, Surrey, Vancouver and Victoria.
- Number of implementation projects underway: Initiated work on 11 of 25 strategies within the BC First Nations Justice Strategy.
How are we working together?
In developing the strategy, BCFNJC consulted with First Nations leadership over numerous meetings and summits. Consultation with First Nations communities continues when needed to implement strategies that operate at the community level. The Province of B.C., BCFNJC and the Government of Canada host a tripartite leadership circle and an annual tripartite ministers meeting.
Are there challenges?
The implementation workplan was endorsed in 2021 and is at risk of not proceeding as planned as both BCFNJC and the Province are advancing work in an ad hoc manner without dedicated provincial funding for implementation.