‘Another step:’ Federal Court judge releases ruling in Cree and Dene

EDMONTON — The Federal Court of Canada says it has issued a ruling in Cree and Dene — the first time it’s done so in an Indigenous language.

Justice Sebastien Grammond wrote about the importance of including the two languages in a ruling last Friday that overturned the suspension of a First Nations band councillor in Fort McMurray, Alta.

A summary of the ruling was written and recorded in Cree and Dene, which are the languages of the parties that were involved.

“The Federal Court is committed to being more accessible to Indigenous people when they wish to bring legal disputes for resolution by the court,” wrote Grammond.

“Many court hearings are held directly in the Indigenous community or via webcast, and where appropriate court procedure is adapted to make space for Indigenous protocols.

“With the release of today’s decision, the court is also taking another step in making court decisions more accessible.”

Grammond thanked the “language keepers” who assisted with preparing the summary in Cree and Dene.

The case involved Samantha Whalen from the Fort McMurray 468 First Nation who was suspended by her council colleagues. They had concluded she had engaged in wrongful conduct, including the disclosure of financial information and her participation in a blockade of a First Nation’s business.

Whalen argued that the council didn’t have the power to suspend her and the Federal Court agreed.

A court spokesman said efforts have been underway for the last 15 years to bring in practical initiatives such as guidelines for litigation involving Indigenous people and for conducting court hearings in their communities.

Andrew Baumberg, legal counsel for the Federal Court, said court members decided at a recent meeting to provide summaries of judgments in the language of the Indigenous communities involved in appropriate cases.

“In recognition of the important role that language plays in First Nation communities,” Baumberg wrote in an email, “the Federal Court intends to continue to increase access to justice for Indigenous people.”

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