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 about to attend an Elder-Assisted Hearing, the following information will be useful.

If you are an offender 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 the offender's specific culture and traditions.

First Nations, Métis and Inuit cultures have different practices.

The Elder will conduct the appropriate ceremony - a smudge, a prayer or a song-before the hearing, if theoffender requests 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 the 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 the offender's 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 decision 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 the offender's right to review all information that the Board will use to decide their 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 you have an assistant. Your assistant is here to support and assist you … do you have any questions regarding this process?"

Offender: No.

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

Narrator: The Elder may offer wisdom and guidance to the offender, 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 the hearing is held. At the end of the day, Board members want to be sure that the offender is ready for parole and that their 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 will have a decision to make-whether or not to grant day parole application."

Narrator: The Parole Officer will share information with the Board about the offender's behaviour during incarceration and any programs they are taking. They will mention any progress the offender has made while working with the institutional Elder and with Aboriginal Liaison Officers. And they will talk about the release plan and community support the offender 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 the offender 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 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: The offender and their assistant-if they have one-will also have an opportunity to speak. They may want to tell Board members any information that was not discussed during the hearing, that they 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 the offender, the focus is on whether they present an undue risk to society if released. It is also on whether their release will help them to become a law-abiding citizen. They will be given a copy of the Board's decision.

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

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


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