Indigenous-led secretariat will help improve access to justice

  • April 13, 2023

From the Ministry of Attorney General

To better address the overrepresentation of Indigenous Peoples in the justice system and Indigenous children and youth in care, the Province has launched a new cross-ministry Indigenous Justice Secretariat, a commitment outlined in the BC First Nations Justice Strategy. 

The secretariat will work with all partners to lead the transformative change needed to create the conditions where Indigenous Peoples are no longer disproportionately interacting with, nor being impacted by the justice system.

“For too long, Indigenous Peoples have been overrepresented in our criminal justice system,” said Niki Sharma, Attorney General. “At the same time, they are underrepresented in roles of authority and responsibility within the system. This new secretariat will help change that and will make Indigenous voices and perspectives central to strengthening our justice system.”

The BC First Nations Justice Strategy is designed by and for Indigenous Peoples to reform the colonial justice system and revitalize Indigenous legal practices and was endorsed by the Province and the BC First Nations Justice Council (BCFNJC) in 2020. The establishment of the Indigenous Justice Secretariat, under Indigenous leadership, fulfils a commitment made by government in Strategy 9 of the BC First Nations Justice Strategy.

The cross-ministry secretariat will be housed within the Ministry of Attorney General, and led by newly appointed assistant deputy minister, Colleen Spier, who has previously served as the executive director of the Indigenous Justice Policy and Legislation Division within the ministry. In that capacity she has been instrumental in supporting the collaboration, development and implementation of the BC First Nations Justice Strategy and Métis Justice Strategy.

Spier is a Métis-Cree lawyer, who was one of the inaugural directors on the BCFNJC when it was launched in 2015.

“The BC First Nations Justice Council is excited that the Indigenous Justice Secretariat has joined us in this important work,” said Rosalie Yazzie, acting chair, BCFNJC. “We could not be more pleased that Colleen Spier has been appointed as assistant deputy minister. We know that she is highly committed and singularly experienced. The Province has proven to us that they trust the BCFNJC to work on solving difficult multi-faceted issues to move forward in improving the justice system, not only for Indigenous Peoples but for all people in B.C.”

The establishment of the Indigenous Justice Secretariat is a key part of the Province’s commitments to advancing reconciliation under the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (Declaration Act) and supporting Indigenous-led restoration of traditional justice systems and culturally relevant institutions.