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Sharples/Flavell: JPs Amendment Bill

Justices of the Peace Amendment Bill

Dr Pita Sharples, Co-leader, Maori Party

Wednesday 19 July 2006; delivered at 9.15pm

I come to this Bill, proud to have been a Justice of the Peace for many years now.

The Maori Party approaches every piece of legislation that comes before this House with the basic question - how will it defend the rights and advance outcomes for tangata whenua? This Bill is no different.

Central to the posing of this question is the particular focus for our constituencies.

Before we left for the break, my colleague, Te Ururoa Flavell, brought to the House the example of Karauria Anaru and his wife, Hanahira Riripotaka; renown justices of the peace in the Waiariki rohe.

He described them as individuals of high integrity, of considerable standing amongst our community, the type of upstanding members of the community we look for in Justices of the Peace.

We note, with some irony, that such accountability and safety has not always been associated with the role of the Justice of the Peace.

Remember the West Coast Settlement (North Island) Act of 1880?

This was the Act which created a number of new offences - such as endangering the public peace by removing survey pegs or preventing lawful occupation by ploughing the surface of the earth or erecting a fence.

For these activities, an offender could be arrested without warrant by any member of the Armed Constabulary, tried before a justice of the peace, imprisoned for up to two years, and then detained in prison for an indefinite period 'to keep the peace'.

Or there’s the West Coast Peace Preservation Act of 1882, which enabled a Justice of the Peace to direct the dispersal of an assembly of fifty or more Maori and provided for penalties of up to 12 months' imprisonment.

The concept of peace is thus somewhat ironic when we consider the obvious injustice and racist assault on tangata whenua enshrined in these two Acts.

Maori were to be treated as alien prisoners of war, to be held at will - with the Justice of the Peace in a key role of perpetuating the crimes of the state.

So when we trace back over the history and background of the Justice of the Peace role within Aotearoa, we must recognize the impact of legislation such as this - which throws up into question the wider issues of justice and how it applies in this nation.

This history is highly relevant to the ability of today’s Justice of the Peace to practice safely.

I talked before recess, of the value of cultural safety - to provoke people to think about their own biases and assumptions about the way in which the world works.

Cultural safety would require prospective JPs to take the role seriously, to try to understand how to support people who might well have different ways of being than their own.

Cultural safety and cultural competency is vital to ensure the diverse populations serviced by Justices of the Peace have their needs met.

Treating everyone the same might seem a fair and ethical approach for any JP to take, but sometimes it’s entirely the wrong thing to do.

We would suggest instead, that the notion of different treatment to achieve equitable outcomes, is a stronger and more inclusive approach.

The political link between the Treaty and its guarantees of equity; including the possibility of equal status with other New Zealanders in article three; is as relevant to the training of Justices of the Peace as it is in any other sector of policy.

And it here that we believe the inclusion of an allegiance, albeit a voluntary one, to Te Tiriti o Waitangi will be very helpful in strengthening the capability of Justices of the Peace to be responsive to the unique constitutional context of Aotearoa.

The Maori Party is introducing a Supplementary Order Paper to be discussed with the Oaths Modernisation Bill when it next comes before this House. The amendments would be introduced to include Te Tiriti o Waitangi in all oaths and affirmations.

The Maori Party considers that being committed towards true service for the community - which is integral to the role of a Justice of the Peace - would require that a clear understanding of the implications of Te Tiriti o Waitangi would be as essential as being a person of good sense, character and integrity.

If one traces the whakapapa of the JP history back to the early days of 1361, one will learn that the Act of that time, envisaged that peace should be kept and justice administered in each country, by a leader assisted by being ‘learned in the law’.

To be learned in the law of our founding partnership in the nation - requires prospective Justices of the Peace to understand the status of Te Tiriti o Waitangi - and indeed, its subsequent implementation across legislation.

The Maori Party is happy to support this Bill in the way in which it supports the Justice of the Peace Association and individual Justices of the Peace in enhancing their capacity to be upstanding members of the community.

But we would still like to see further information - including specific data on the numbers of Maori JPs across electorates and across regions of Aotearoa.

And here, Madam Speaker, we have reason again to return to the report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur who reported that the lack of significant disaggregated statistical data identifying ethnicity was a key barrier to reducing disparities. If you do not have the right data, you cannot really target your social policy.

We would hope that the accomplishment of the aims of this new Bill will indeed achieve peace, will work to enhance justice; and provide a much needed framework for community credibility.

TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party-Waiariki):

Thursday 29 June 2006

With a couple of minutes to go, I want to introduce the Māori Party statement before we go off and have a break. Tēnā koe, tēnā tātou katoa.

In introducing our position on the Justices of the Peace Amendment Bill, I want to talk about one of the people involved in my own constituency in a historical context.

I turn to one of our people whose name was Karauria Tīwaka Ānaru, also known as Claude, who was born on 2 June 1901 at Raukōkore in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.

Claude Ānaru was appointed as a justice of the peace in 1947, and with the support of Mr C J Wright he was largely responsible for the formation of the Rotorua and District Justices of the Peace Association.

Claude later became president and first life member of the Rotorua and District Justices of the Peace Association. He married Hanahira Riripōtaka of Te Arawa, who played a prominent part in the Waiariki branch of the Maori Women’s Welfare League and was also a justice of the peace.

I use these examples-fine examples they are-in considering this particular bill. I understand that they were individuals of high integrity, of considerable standing amongst our community, people with a deep understanding of Māori culture, language, and whakapapa, and with enormous expertise across health, social services, legal, and tribal affairs. They demonstrated discipline. They represented the type of outstanding and upstanding member of the community we look for in justices of the peace.

It is disappointing that such high ideals have clearly not been reflected in other JPs, which has caused the new proposals endorsed in this bill.

It is with some disillusionment that the Māori Party has become aware of the record of complaints kept by the Ministry of Justice about JPs, including convictions for offences, such as bankruptcy, and personal conflict.

We support the introduction of the new disciplinary regime although, of course, we are concerned at the eroding values that would see people destroy the trust and confidence that the public places in such roles. We believe that standards need to be upheld, and that in the interests of excellent public service, accountability, and safety, a consistent and transparent procedure for disciplinary action must be in place.

It may well be that, in the initial training in the role of justice of the peace-which is initiated in this bill-including the background to the history of these positions will assist in providing the context for the duties and responsibilities that a justice of the peace takes on.

Indeed, the Māori Party would suggest that the training component for the new provisions of this bill must go much further than simply administrative renewals of licences and updating the JPs on changes. We would recommend that a programme of cultural safety be introduced.

HOUSE CONCLUDES


ENDS

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