The New-Brunswick Aboriginal Duty Counsel Project


The Aboriginal Duty Counsel Project lawyer was in court three days per week. A regular duty counsel service operated at the same time as the special Aboriginal duty counsel service. Thus, there were two days on which the Aboriginal duty counsel lawyer was not available in court, and on those days some Aboriginal people were seen by the regular duty counsel. This situation affords the opportunity to make another set of comparisons between the Aboriginal duty counsel service and regular duty counsel.

Data were gathered from the Legal Aid New Brunswick duty counsel reports for the Richibucto court for the same period during which the Aboriginal Duty Counsel project operated. This provided a comparison sample in which clients were served by a non-Aboriginal lawyer. During that period, there were 594 duty counsel contacts. Using the method of name identification, Aboriginal people were identified from the list of accused seen by duty counsel. One hundred and nineteen persons, or 20 % of the 1998-1999 duty counsel population were identified as Aboriginal persons.

The duty counsel data shown in the table below are from the Richibucto court, and cover the same period as the first year of operation of the Aboriginal duty counsel project.

Table 16.1: Outcome at First Appearance Court for Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Accused Regular Duty Counsel Service, 1998-1999
Outcome Aboriginal Non-Aboriginal
Guilty 27.7 % (33) 44.2 % (210)
Not Guilty 27.7 % (33) 28.0 % (133)
Adjourned 44.5 % (53) 27.8 % (475)
TOTAL 100.0 % (119) 100.0 % (475)

The data in this table are similar to the two years of pre-project data. The proportion of adjournments for Aboriginal people served by non-Aboriginal lawyers is high relative to non-Aboriginals. In 1996-97 the percentage of adjournments for Aboriginal people was 43 %, and in 1997-98 the proportion was 46 %. The figures for non-Aboriginal people were 30 % in each year (Table 4.1). The Aboriginal people represented by these data appeared in the same court in front of the same judge as Aboriginal people who received the services of the Aboriginal duty counsel lawyer. The table shows that the percentage of adjournments was 44.5 %, very similar to the proportion of adjournments during the two years prior to the Aboriginal Duty Counsel Project. During the same time, the proportion of adjournments for clients in the Project was 23.2 % (see table 14.1). It seems clear that the presence of the Aboriginal lawyer is a critical factor in decreasing the number of adjournments.

27.7 % of the Aboriginal people receiving the services of the regular duty counsel entered guilty pleas. This is about the same as the 27.4 % of those receiving assistance from the Aboriginal Duty Counsel project.

The percentage of not guilty pleas by Aboriginal people receiving regular duty counsel service is 27.7 %. This is significantly lower than the 54.6 % for the Aboriginal people who received the services of the special duty counsel lawyer. The larger number of adjournments experienced in the regular duty counsel scheme might eventually translate mostly into pleas of not guilty.