The New-Brunswick Aboriginal Duty Counsel Project

15. LANGUAGE ABILITY AND INTENTION TO PLEAD

It was noted above that about 23.7 % of all Aboriginal clients reported that they spoke English poorly. About 8.5 % did not speak English at all according to the self-report data. It might be expected that people with poor English language skills might be more likely to intend to plead guilty than those who speak English well. However, the project data shown below in Table 15.1 indicate no discernable tendency for Aboriginal people with poor English language skills. The difference in the percentage of people entering guilty and not guilty pleas among those who understand English poorly is 8.7 % (26.3 – 17.6).

Table 15.1: English Language Skills and Intention to Plead Intention to Plead
Ability to Speak English Guilty Not Guilty
Male Female Total Male Female Total
Poor 24.0% (6) 30.8% (4) 26.3% (10) 14.9% (7) 22,2% (6) 17,6% (13)
Well 64.0% (16) 53.8% (7) 60.5% (23) 55.3% (26) 44.4% (12) 51.4% (38)

The percentage difference between people entering guilty and not guilty pleas among those who speak English well is 9.1 % (60.5 – 51.4). The two percentage differences, 8.7 % for those who speak English poorly and 9.1 % for those who speak English well, are too similar to suggest a difference based on ability to speak English.

The data do not show any substantial differences for males and females. For men who speak English poorly, there is a 9.1 % difference between entering guilty and not guilty pleas (24.0 – 14.9). For women who speak English poorly, there is an 8.6 % difference (30.8 – 22.2). For men who speak English well, there is an 8.7 % difference between those entering guilty and not guilty pleas (64.0 – 55.3). The comparable percentage difference for women who speak well is 9.4 % (53.8 – 44.4). The percentage differences for men and women are not large enough to suggest that language ability makes any significant difference between men and women in intention to plead.

It is possible that the influence of the Aboriginal duty counsel has diminished any tendency for Native people with poor English skills to plead guilty.

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