Fact Sheet

What is an Elder-Assisted Hearing?

Elder-Assisted Hearings are available to offenders who are Aboriginal or to those who have demonstrated a meaningful commitment to an Aboriginal way of life.

An Elder-Assisted Hearing is attended by an Aboriginal Elder or Cultural Advisor who can answer questions Board members might have about Aboriginal cultural and spiritual concerns.

It is just as rigorous as any other Parole Board of Canada (PBC) hearing.

The Elder is not involved in making decisions to grant or deny parole.

What happens at an Elder-Assisted Hearing?

The PBC makes arrangements for an Elder or Cultural Advisor to attend these types of hearings, which are often held in a circle. First Nations, Métis and Inuit each have different cultural practices.

If the offender requests it, an Elder may conduct a ceremony—a smudge[1], a prayer or a song—before the hearing begins.  Participation in the ceremony is voluntary.

After the ceremony, the hearing will begin with a reading of the procedural safeguards.  Safeguards are rules every hearing must follow to be fair.

Board members discuss the offender’s case file with the offender’s Parole Officer.  During the hearing, if the offender has an assistant, they may deliver a statement to the Board members.  If a victim has prepared a statement to read at the hearing, they will be invited to read their statement.

Board members will interview the offender, which accounts for just some of the information they need in order to decide whether the risk the offender presents can be managed in the community, or whether the offender’s release presents an undue risk to society.

After the interview, participants and observers are escorted from the room to allow Board members to discuss and analyze elements of the interview and the offender’s file information, and to make a decision.

Participants and observers are escorted back into the room, where Board members summarize their decision for the offender.

Following the hearing, the Elder may say a closing prayer.

Can observers attend an Elder-Assisted Hearing?

The Corrections and Conditional Release Act permits observers at PBC hearings, including Elder-Assisted parole hearings, to ensure openness and accountability of the parole system, and to contribute to public understanding of the parole decision-making process.

Anyone wishing to attend a hearing needs to fill out a Request to Observe a Hearing (PDF 125Kb) form and submit it to the PBC office in the region where the hearing will be held. 

A security screening will be conducted before an individual is approved to attend a hearing. 

For more information

Visit http://www.pbc-clcc.gc.ca
Victims may seek assistance by calling 1-866-789-INFO (4636), toll-free.


[1] A "smudge" involves the burning of ceremonial medicines such as sage, cedar or sweet grass. An Elder may smudge each person by going around the circle or by inviting people to approach the smudge themselves.