Portfolio Holders

  • Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day
  • Deputy Grand Chief Joel Abram


The Director of Justice takes a dual role of both over-seeing the Justice sector and providing legal support to other sectors as required.  The Justice Sector will be setting strategic priorities under the direction of the Justice Committee, under two primary objectives: 1) inherent rights, traditional legal principles and governance, and 2) relationships with Canada and Ontario, and review of laws and policies that impact First Nations people.  These two objectives are interrelated, and the interplay between them is critical in First Nations movement towards greater self-determination as well as reconciliation with Canada and Ontario.

With respect to inherent rights, traditional legal principles and governance, the Chiefs of Ontario play an important role in advocating for First Nation authority and jurisdiction, as well as directing that rights-holders are appropriately consulted and engaged with respect to First Nation distinctive judicial customs, traditions, procedures and policies.

With respect to relationships with Canada and Ontario, and review of laws and policies that impact First Nations people, COO’s coordination and communication strategy focusses on increasing federal and provincial understanding of and respect for First Nations perspectives respecting heritage and burials, policing, community safety, and criminal justice.

The work of the COO Justice Sector is without prejudice to the policing, justice, inherent rights and nation-building initiatives being doing at the First Nation community and nation level.


Federal Review of Laws and Policies respecting Indigenous People

Canada is undertaking a wholesale review of their laws and policies that impact First Nations in order to account for Section. 35, UNDRIP, and the nation-to-nation relationship.  The Chiefs of Ontario Political Confederacy has had a meeting with Canada’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Jody Wilson-Raybould, as well as the Federal Working Group on Laws and Policies Respecting Indigenous Peoples, and has made preliminary representations about the need for a total reset of the relationship between First Nations and the Canadian government.  The Political Confederacy also had a retreat to brainstorm and determine strategic priorities for the federal review.  First Nations must be strategic about what they envision their relationship with Canada and Ontario without the Indian Act framework.  First Nations must be ready to identify opportunities for our nations and communities to exercise jurisdiction, develop laws, and govern themselves.   This tremendous undertaking will be a key focus of the justice sector moving forward.  COO will coordinate discussions amongst communities, tribal councils and nations, as well as knowledge keepers, constitutional experts and legal scholars to evaluate what our new relationships with Canada and Ontario will look like.

Strategy to address overrepresentation of First Nation Peoples in the Justice and Correctional Systems

Resolution 13/47 directs the Justice Sector to develop a strategy to advocate for greater access to justice for First Nations people in the provincial and federal justice and correctional systems.  Over-representation remains a key challenge that First Nations must address.  Data must be collected and analyzed that meaningfully addresses the treatment of and outcomes for First Nations people in corrections systems.  “Justice as healing” will be a key tenant for our strategy, with an emphasis on restorative practices and increasing access to First Nations traditional practices.  First Nations may decide to take positions on issues such as mandatory minimum sentencing, solitary confinement and the implementation of Gladue principles.

First Nations Legal Traditions

In partnership with the Women’s Forum Group, the Justice Sector will hold a Women’s Political and Legal Summit, which bring together First Nations leadership as well as municipal, provincial and federal political leaders to empower women in leadership roles.  A key topic for consideration will be First Nations legal traditions, as well as female perspectives regarding governance.  The Summit will be designed to maximize conversations amongst participants, to develop networking and learning opportunities.  The Summit is scheduled for Spring 2018.

Strategy for a Safer Ontario (SSO)

The Chiefs of Ontario have coordinated with the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, First Nations and First Nations chiefs of police for several years. The Chiefs of Ontario received the SSO and proposed amendments to the Police Services Act (PSA) and, guided by the 43 resolutions on policing from the Chiefs in Assembly, informed Ontario that more time to review the draft SSO was needed.

The Chiefs of Ontario prepared a Policy Position Paper on the SSO, which recommended key policy and legislative changes that include updating the principles within the PSA to recognize the need to respond to the unique context of First Nation, and to ensure equitable funding for First Nation police services. In June 2017 this policy paper was presented to the All Ontario Chiefs Conference.

Focus for next quarter

In addition to the strategic priorities identified above, the Justice Sector will emphasize on the following:

Partnership with the Ontario Human Rights Commission

The Chiefs of Ontario, by Resolution 41-17, directed the Justice Sector to establish a working collaborative relationship with the Ontario Human Rights Commission to address discrimination against First Nation people in Ontario.  This relationship will focus on joint planning, joint coordination and joint advocacy.  A knowledge forum will be held in Winter 2018 to explore First Nations’ conceptions of human rights.  This strategic partnership will have a long-term objective of supporting First Nations in developing their own human rights and responsibility codes.

Partnership with the David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights (University of Toronto Faculty of Law)

Law students at the University of Toronto will be researching issues related to substantive equality for First Nations in the area of child welfare.

Justice Education

The Justice Sector will be developing educational material, both in print and video formats, for the use of community members, educators, leadership, and so on, that provide high-level overviews of the important historical, treaty, and legal concepts that impact First Nations.  This material will explain concepts like terra nullius, the Royal Proclamation, the Fiduciary Duty, Section 35, and provisions of the Indian Act, in ways that are engaging and easy to understand.

On-going coordination

The Justice Sector is developing coordination and communication strategies that address the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRP), the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Treaties, the Duty to Consult and Accommodate, and the inherent rights of First Nations people in Ontario.  The Chiefs Committee on Justice as well as the Technical Committee on Justice will provide further direction.

Strategy for a Safer Ontario

The MCSCS is finalizing the SSO, including the major amendments to the PSA.

The Chiefs of Ontario will continue to engage with the Ministry, as directed by the Chiefs in Assembly, to ensure that equitable and culturally appropriate policing exists in First Nation communities. MCSCS is also seeking to work with COO and PTOs in continued engagement following the introduction of legislation this fall, including who is interested in the new options under the revised PSA and how to develop regulations and policies.

Upcoming Events

Justice Committee Meeting – October 23, 2017 (evening) in Ottawa

Ontario Human Rights Commission Knowledge Forum – Winter 2017 in Thunder Bay and Ottawa (tentative)

Women’s Political and Legal Summit – Spring 2018 in Ottawa