Circle Hearings


What is a Circle Hearing?

A circle hearing is an alternative method to a mainstream parole hearing and is conducted with the same desired outcome, which is to determine whether an applicant is suitable for reintegration within the community.

Circle hearings are led and facilitated by Elders who are considered the gatekeepers of Indigenous knowledge and history, and hold critical roles in Indigenous communities.

The role of an Elder in a circle hearing is dynamic and can include:

  • Facilitating the circle hearing process.
  • Providing culturally appropriate support to the applicant.
  • Providing advice and guidance to the OPB members.

Purpose of Circle Hearing

The purpose of a circle hearing is to create an environment that facilitates a culturally appropriate hearing process for Indigenous applicants (First Nations, Inuit and Métis) and one that will allow OPB members to gain a better understanding of the unique circumstances of the applicant and be able to assess culturally appropriate parole release plans. The circle hearing creates a non-confrontational environment for a hearing and welcomes the presence and contribution of an Indigenous Cultural Advisor.

The Ontario Parole Board (OPB) is committed to its responsibility to be responsive to the special needs of Indigenous people.

Protocols of Circle Hearing

In the case of an in-person hearing, after a Circle Hearing is opened by an Elder with a blessing or a ceremony, the Elder sets out the process for the hearing and passes the Eagle Feather to the applicant, who is the first to speak.

In virtual hearings, while we cannot sit in a circle the protocol of that circle hearing can still be respected.

After a Circle hearing is opened by an Elder with a blessing or a ceremony, the Elder sets out the process for the hearing and may reference the Eagle Feather to the participants of that Circle.

In a Circle hearing, only the person holding the virtual Eagle Feather has the right to speak as directed by the Elder.

Participants of a Circle Hearing

In the case of an in-person hearing, what makes a Circle Hearing unique is that participants sit together in a circle. As the Eagle Feather makes its way around the circle, all participants are given the opportunity to speak, building a relationship of trust and increasing the strength of the circle.

In virtual hearings, while we cannot sit in a circle the protocol of that circle hearing can still be respected.

As the Eagle feather makes its way around the circle, as directed by the Elder, all participants are given the opportunity to speak, building a relationship of trust and increasing the strength of the circle.

Requesting a Circle Hearing

The applicant may complete the Request for Circle Hearing Form which can be obtained from the ILO at the institution. On the form, the applicant should indicate which Indigenous community they identify with along with any special requests related to the protocol.