They have been around for 30 years and are customary in many provinces as a type of pre-sentence report for a judge when considering a sentence for an Indigenous offender.
It appears, however, that Saskatchewan is significantly behind the times when it comes to Gladue reports and could be because there’s only one writer.
“The information that I get is just toxic to the core, these are not people that have lived a rosey life – they’re the worst of the worst.”
Since 2015, Christine M. Goodwin has been commissioned to write these reports and takes on a new file every three weeks – most taking six to eight months to complete.
On Monday evening, she finished a report for the offender responsible for the death of six-week-old Nikosis Jace Cantre.
Less than 24 hours later, it was presented in court and the accused in that case was handed down a life sentence with no change of parole eligibility for seven years.
In that case, like others, Goodwin outlines the life circumstances and trauma of Indigenous offenders for a judge to consider during sentencing.
“It’s very rare to have a Gladue report in this province,” Goodwin said.
“There’s probably been under 75 done in this province since 1999.”
Of those, 25 were conducted by Goodwin, who is quick to point out how low these numbers are given the high incarceration rates among Indigenous offenders.
Saskatchewan’s Aboriginal population makes up 17 per cent of the entire population and yet Goodwin said 75 per cent of inmates serving time are Indigenous.
She also notes that more than 550 Gladue reports were commissioned in Alberta last year compared to only 20 in Saskatchewan.
“The sad thing is the people that are needing them are not getting them.”
There are a few reasons why offenders aren’t receiving Gladue reports. Goodwin said the expense of up to $8,000 must be paid by the accused if the judge doesn’t order one.
If the judge does order one, at the request of defence counsel or at their own discretion, the Ministry of Justice pays through court services otherwise it’s up to the offender to pay the fees.
Goodwin also noted that many offenders don’t feel the crime they’ve committed warrants a report. Other times the judge doesn’t use this tool to assist with their decision.
Defence lawyers, Brian Pfefferle, who represented the offender in the Nikosis case, said they’re invaluable.
“I hope that there’s more access to Gladue reports, I think they’re very helpful both at the bail stages, sentencing stages – any stage of the court proceedings.”
In many cases attorneys are having the reports done out-of-province, if at all. Waiting for a Gladue report, as opposed to drafting their own submissions, can cause a significant delay in the sentencing of an individual.
“I think it’s useful certainly if we have in-province people,” Pfefferle added.
“They know the communities, they have access to the communities and that’s an important feature for the court.”
Goodwin who spends up to six to eight hours a day at a prison with an offender said in one case it took up to five visits for the offender to open up.
“I’d like to do them all, I just physically can’t do them all.”
She also wanted to explain that the reports aren’t a “get out of jail free card,” but offer sentencing alternatives that may mean less inmates behind bars in the long-run if they are rehabilitated with the right supports. For example, three years in a treatment facility versus a prison.
The Ministry of Justice issued this statement in response to inquiries regarding the demand for Gladue reports and only one writer.
“Saskatchewan courts primarily rely on information provided through pre-sentencing reports. Aboriginal court workers, legal aid and probation officers often play a part in providing information on potential Gladue factors in court cases.”
In addition they said, in Saskatchewan, new probation officers need to have a university degree in a human service related field and receive five weeks in-classroom orientation. This orientation includes training in Aboriginal awareness and education about treaty rights.
They are also given specific training for interviewing and writing pre-sentence reports that includes training specific to Gladue factors.
“Corrections and policing is currently planning additional training for all probation officers who write pre-sentence reports to be sure we are addressing the Gladue factors in a thorough and consistent manner.”