NORTH BATTLEFORD - A man was granted bail Friday in North Battleford Provincial Court after legal aid lawyer Andrew Lyster argued that Indigenous people are over-represented in pre-trial custody.
Judge Kevin Hill granted 19-year-old Shelwin Tootoosis bail after a contested bail hearing Friday.
“The remand system is the biggest over representation of Indigenous people,” Lyster told the court.
According to the federal Department of Justice, analyses of provincial court data shows that Indigenous men - and especially women - were significantly more likely to spend time in pre-trial detention than non-Indigenous accused. The justice department said a major reason for this was the higher likelihood that an Indigenous accused would be denied bail. The Supreme Court in R. v. Gladue upheld this view.
Ivan Zinger, Correctional Investigator of Canada, in his annual report last year, called for urgent and bold action to address the increasing over-representation of Indigenous people in Canada’s prison system, saying, "The Indigenization of Canada's prison population is nothing short of a national travesty.”
Regional Crown Prosecutor Suzanne Reid told the court she was opposed to Tootoosis’ release on tertiary and secondary grounds. Primary grounds are flight risk and secondary grounds are for the protection or safety of the public due to risk of re-offending.
Tootoosis was charged in 2020 with aggravated assault and two counts of driving while over .08. The details of what is said during show cause hearings can’t be published.
Judge Hill told Tootoosis, “I am content to release you, Mr. Tootoosis. I’m not going to read you the riot act but provide you with cautions.”
Judge Hill advised Tootoosis to follow his release conditions and to get busy doing something productive.
“I’m going to give you the benefit of doubt given your age,” said Judge Hill. “Young people go through a phase where they are young and dumb.
“Mr Tootoosis, don’t disappoint me,” added Judge Hill.
“I’m taking a chance on you because you are young. I think you can smarten up.”
Tootoosis will be monitored with an electronic ankle bracelet. He is scheduled to appear in Cut Knife Circuit Court on Oct. 5.