Elder-Assisted Hearings

  You may also access this video on the Parole Board of Canada’s YouTube channel.

Transcript: Elder-Assisted Hearings

Narrator: If you are planning to have an Elder-Assisted Hearing, the following information will be useful.

If you are eligible for parole and wish to have this type of hearing, you need to fill out a request form and submit it to your parole officer.

At this hearing, the Parole Board of Canada invites an Elder or Cultural Advisor to attend. The Elder will provide the Board with general information about Indigenous cultures, as well as information about your specific culture and traditions.

First Nations, Métis and Inuit cultures have different practices.

The Elder will conduct the appropriate ceremony for you-a smudge, a prayer or a song-before the hearing, if you request it.

The Elder will smudge each person by going around the circle or inviting people to approach the smudge themselves, and then follow up with an opening prayer.

The prayer may alternatively be given by an Elder in your institution or an Elder from the community.

After the ceremony and after all the hearing participants have joined the circle, the hearing will begin with a reading of the procedural safeguards. These safeguards describe how the hearing will unfold, and your rights in that process.

Hearing Officer: Mr. Martin, my name is Lynne O'Brien. I am a hearing officer with the Parole Board of Canada. My role is to ensure that your rights are respected and that you are informed of decision criteria and options available to Board members. I am not involved in making the decision. You indicated that you want your hearing held in English. Is this correct?"

Offender: Yes.

Narrator: Procedural safeguards are read at the hearing, and they include your right to review all information that the Board will use to decide your case.

Hearing Officer: We are making an audio recording of your hearing today. You can request a copy of this recording by sending a written request to the Board. At this time, I would ask everyone participating in today's hearing to identify themselves for voice recognition purposes."

Narrator: Having ensured that the safeguards required by law are met, the Parole Board will proceed with the hearing.

Hearing Officer: I see that your assistant is here to support and assist you … do you have any questions?"

Offender: No.

Hearing Officer: You have requested an Elder-Assisted Hearing.

Narrator: The Elder may offer wisdom and guidance to you, and answer questions Board members might have during their deliberations about cultural and spiritual concerns. The Elder is not involved in making the decision to grant or deny parole.

Hearing Officer: Your hearing will proceed as follows: Your parole officer will give a brief summary of your case. You will be given an opportunity to comment on their presentation. The Board will then ask you questions. If at any time you do not understand a question, please tell the Board Members and they will rephrase it for you."

Narrator: Speaking order may vary depending on where your hearing is held. At the end of the day, Board members want to be sure that you are ready for parole and that your release will contribute to the protection of society.

Board Member: You are being seen today for day parole review. In making our decision today, we will do a thorough assessment of all information shared with you to determine whether or not your release will constitute an undue risk to society."

Narrator: Board members lead the hearing. They must follow the law and use standard risk assessment criteria to make their decision. An Elder-Assisted Hearing is just as rigorous as any other Board hearing.

Board Member: Once we have completed the review, we'll have a decision to make-whether or not to grant your day parole application."

Narrator: Your Parole Officer will share information with the Board about your behaviour during incarceration and any programs you are taking. They will mention any progress you have made while working with the institutional Elder and with Aboriginal Liaison Officers. And they will talk about the release plan and community support you may have.

Victims may attend an Elder-Assisted Hearing and may request to sit in the inner circle. If a victim has provided a statement to the Board, it will be shared with you before the hearing. They may choose to read their statement at the hearing, usually at the start.

Victim: My name is Charlotte McDonald and I am a victim of Mr. Martin. He offended against me in 2007 and I live in fear of him."

Narrator: If victims sit in the outer circle, they will be provided the same opportunity to read their statement during the hearing.

Victim: His crime has had a negative impact on my family and me.

Narrator: Once Board members have asked you all their questions, the Parole Officer will have an opportunity to provide comments to the Board based on what has been discussed during the hearing.

Parole Officer: …participates regularly in sweats in the institution. He's completed a series of ETAs to his home community to work with his Elder and to visit his family.

Narrator: You and your assistant-if you have one-will also have an opportunity to speak. You may want to tell Board members any information that was not discussed during the hearing, that you believe is relevant.

At the end of the interview, participants and observers, including victims, are asked to leave while Board members deliberate.

The Elder may also stay in the room to answer any last questions Board members might have about culture or traditions. Again, the Elder is not involved in making the parole decision.

Board members will take as long as is necessary to make their decision. Once their decision is made, all participants and observers are called back into the room.

When the Board member shares the decision and reasons for it with you, the focus is on whether you present an undue risk to society if released. It is also on whether your release will help you to become a law-abiding citizen. You will be given a copy of the Board's decision.

If granted parole, you are responsible for following all of the conditions of your release. You will be informed of any special conditions you will be required to abide by, as well as any additional information the Board believes is necessary for your return to society as a law-abiding citizen.

After the hearing is over, the Elder may give a closing prayer.


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