A recent decision written by Justice Shaun Nakatsuru of the Ontario Court of Justice is being lauded for its plain language and “inspiring” approach. Justice Nakatsuru addressed his judgment directly to the 29-year-old repeat offender, Jesse Armitage, who is of Aboriginal heritage. He highlighted the importance of writing judicial decisions in a less legalistic manner so that the individual persons who appear in court will know they have been heard by the judges presiding over their case. Using poetic and elegant language, Justice Nakatsuru described the troubles of Mr. Armitage:
If I could describe Mr. Armitage as a tree, his roots remain hidden beneath the ground. I can see what he is now. I can see the trunk. I can see the leaves. But much of what he is and what has brought him before me, I cannot see. They are still buried… [para 55]
It is also obvious that this tree is not healthy. The leaves droop and appear sickly. It does not flourish regardless of the attention paid upon it. The tree needs healing. [para 56]
…I find that Mr. Armitage appears before me as a dispirited man…His spirit has fallen ill. Although I cannot say exactly how or describe it in easy to understand words, it strikes me that Mr. Armitage is a metaphor for what negative effects colonization has had on many First Nations people and communities. [para 62]
In a letter to the Toronto Star dated March 6, 2015, FACL applauds Justice Shaun Nakatsuru’s recent decision in R. v. Armitage for being thoughtful, fair, and innovative. He speaks to all members of the community — and not just the legal community. This decision underscores the importance of a judiciary that not only understands the diverse communities that it serves, but that can communicate in a meaningful and understandable way to those communities.
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