The Appropriateness of the Lawyer as Advocate in Contemporary Aboriginal Justice Initiatives


  • Larry Chartrand



This article discusses circle sentencing as a means of addressing the high proportion of aboriginal offenders in the prison system and allowing aboriginal communities greater participation in sentencing decisions. The difficulties of continuing the lawyer's role as advocate, a primary duty of lawyers in this process, is also explored. Ultimately, it is the clients decision whether to allow community participation in sentencing. The article queries whether by allowing community involvement in decision-making, the lawyer is disregarding a commitment to act in the client's interests. For circle sentencing to be effective, not only must the lawyer relinquish the role of advocate, but equally importantly, the client must accept this non-adversarial role. Similarly, the function of the judge must change from passive neutrality to mediation. Until there is legislative reform, the extent to which aboriginal communities may be involved in the sentencing process rests within the judge's discretion.