The justice systems of recognized First Nations
must, at last analysis, be a significant factor in their
promotion of traditional human values. It is in the
traditional justice system where competing values regarding
the place of the individual in his/her community, the nature
of the social order, the interlocking system of
responsibilities of the individual and family and community
will be sorted out.
In some First Nations, the forces of evangelical
Christianity will have strong influence in designing a
justice system. Others will return to a system that seemed
to serve well a century ago. Others will devise a modern
system that incorporates timeless traditional values. A
traditional community in the North may adopt a system quite
different than a community near an urban centre.
Whether there will be homogenization over time or
increased diversity, and whether there will be a
re-evaluation of the usefulness of Euro-Canadian tradition
as compared to indigenous tradition, cannot be foreseen from
today’s vantage point.
If First Nations are to make their full contribution to
Canada, while at the same time providing culturally
appropriate "justice" to those within their jurisdiction,
space must be left for them to make their contribution in
their own way. This is the essence of decolonization.
Essentially, it will be up to the people of a First
Nation to ensure their rights to justice are adequately
protected by the provisions of its constitution. Those who
are not satisfied with the protections judged sufficient by
a distinct majority of the people will have to undertake
convincing their fellow citizens of the value of their
position, or consider whether they should remain in that
jurisdiction. If the system is oppressive, the Nation will
pay the price that all oppressive nations pay. If the
system is progressive, the Nation will reap the benefits.
Systems must be flexible and open enough to accommodate
the volatile bi-directional evolution of First Nation
cultures. A whole new system of jurisprudence may arise over
time relating to First Nation law and its application.
What about appeals? What happens when two jurisdictions
each provide decisions that conflict with the other? There
is the question of appealing decisions of a justice system
applying international standards. There is a need to protect
First Nation justice systems from assault by appeals to
outside agencies where there is conflict of First Nation
rights and Canadian rights.