Presiding judge at Wagmatcook court was force behind on-reserve justice

“Operating in close consultation with the First Nations community, including the chief, council and elders, it’s a venue where Mi’kmaq feel their voices are being heard and rehabilitation is unfolding.

‘Before you were pleading guilty because you didn’t want to have to go back to court again,’ said Halfpenny-MacQuarrie. ‘You didn’t have to try to get witnesses to come.

‘Now, it’s one not guilty plea after another, after another.’

It was a point that struck home with Martha Paynter, chairwoman of Women’s Wellness Within, who attended Friday’s event. In the end, she wanted to see hard numbers.

‘The way people are pleading that is profound,’ said Paynter. ‘We need to have the numbers on that. I just want to see it in black and white. We know that people in power get not guilty verdicts. But we know people are pleading guilty out of poverty.’”

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Grace Szucs