Bad Medicine

Bad Medicine

A Judge's Struggle for Justice in A First Nations Community

Book - 2010
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Heritage Books

Early in his career, Judge John Reilly did everything by the book. His jurisdiction included a First Nations community plagued by suicide, addiction, poverty, violence and corruption. He steadily handed out prison sentences with little regard for long-term consequences and even less knowledge as to why crime was so rampant on the reserve in the first place.

In an unprecedented move that pitted him against his superiors, the legal system he was part of, and one of Canada's best-known Indian chiefs, the Reverend Dr. Chief John Snow, Judge Reilly ordered an investigation into the tragic and corrupt conditions on the reserve. A flurry of media attention ensued. Some labelled him a racist; others thought he should be removed from his post, claiming he had lost his objectivity. But many on the Stoney Reserve hailed him a hero as he attempted to uncover the dark challenges and difficult history many First Nations communities face.

At a time when government is proposing new "tough on crime" legislation, Judge Reilly provides an enlightening and timely perspective. He shows us why harsher punishments for offenders don't necessarily make our societies safer, why the white justice system is failing First Nations communities, why jail time is not the cure-all answer some think it to be, and how corruption continues to plague tribal leadership.



Blackwell Publishing
Early in his career, Judge John Reilly did everything by the book. His jurisdiction included a First Nations community plagued with suicide, addiction, poverty, violence and corruption. He steadily handed out prison sentences with little regard for long-term consequences and even less knowledge as to why crime was so rampant on the reserve in the first place.

In an unprecedented move that pitted him against his superiors, the legal system he was part of, and one of Canada's best-known Indian chiefs, the Reverend Dr. Chief John Snow, Judge Reilly ordered an investigation into the tragic and corrupt conditions on the reserve. A flurry of media attention ensued.

Some labelled him a racist; others thought he should be removed from his post, claiming he had lost his objectivity. But many on the Stoney reserve hailed him a hero as he attempted to uncover the dark challenges and difficult history many First Nations communities face.

At a time when government is proposing new "tough on crime" legislation, Judge Reilly provides an enlightening and timely perspective. He shows us why harsher punishments for offenders don't necessarily make our societies safer, why the white justice system is failing First Nations communities, why jail time is not the cure-all answer some think it to be, and how corruption continues to plague tribal leadership.

Publisher: Victoria, B.C. : Rocky Mountain Books, c2010
ISBN: 9781926855035
Characteristics: 261 p. : map ; 22 cm

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rpavlacic
Jun 10, 2017

A first hand account by a judge assigned to a First Nations community who at first handed out sentences without regards to the horrible conditions that natives often live in which may mitigate their crimes.

But then he decided to conduct an investigation into life on the reserve itself and found a lot of it had to do not just with the paternalism of the Indian Act, but also with the corruption of the long time elected leader, Chief John Snow, who doled out oil and forest royalties to his friends while keeping most of his people in abject poverty. His findings found him both praise from residents long resentful of their chief but criticism from many other quarters who accused him of being a racist.

He details one attempt to dole out a suspended sentence to a wife beater when the normal sanction would have been jail time, rationalizing it with the despondency of reserve residents. He also talks about his frustration about trying to press charges against Snow - the province said they were natives which were a federal responsibility, the Indian Affairs department said that it was a criminal matter which was a provincial matter.

When we talk about the need for justice for Aboriginals, the book concludes, we not only have to deal with land claims and ensuring suicide and unemployment rates correspond with the non-native population (the current numbers outnumber whites by multiple factors), but also ensuring elected chiefs and band councillors are held accountable for their actions, just as "our" politicians are.

h
HopeTessa
Mar 29, 2017

This is a very easy read, and a great starting point if you want to learn about indigenous people maneuvering through a justice system. But I would recommend that you continue to do some more research during and after reading this book. As with any nonfiction made for mass market there are some bias to the book, so make sure you address them if you want a full read.

readingmomma Feb 28, 2012

Good book, easy to read an accessible to somebody with no legal background. Very though provoking. The Judge in question seeks to institute restorative justice programmes on the reserve but fails to take part in one for the damage he (self admittedly) has caused, or even to consider that as an option (unless he didn't write about it, or I missed that part).

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