Aboriginal people are so vastly over-represented in Canada’s federal prison system that current policies are clearly failing them, according to a new report by the Office of the Correctional Investigator.
The report found “no new significant investments at the community level for federal aboriginal initiatives. No deputy commissioner dedicated solely to and responsible for aboriginal programs, planning, implementation and results. And worst of all, no progress in closing the large gaps in correctional outcomes between aboriginal and non-aboriginal inmates,” Howard Sapers, the correctional investigator for Canada, said during a news conference in Ottawa.
The report was tabled in the House of Commons Thursday morning — only the second special report ever written by the investigator since the office’s creation 40 years ago.
The trail of many social policies which have marginalized one group of our population “defines systemic discrimination,” Sapers said.
“It’s not that anybody designed the CSC programs to be discriminatory but in fact, there are differential outcomes between aboriginal and non-aboriginal inmates,” Sapers said.
The correctional investigator pointed to what he called “alarming” statistics.
“There are just over 3,400 aboriginal men and women making up 23 per cent of the country’s federal prison inmate population,” Sapers said.
“In other words, while aboriginal people in Canada comprise just four per cent of the population, in federal prisons nearly one in four is Métis, Inuit, or First Nations.”
Sapers found almost 40 per cent increase in the aboriginal incarcerated population between 2001-02 and 2010-11.
Additionally, aboriginal inmates are sentenced to longer terms, and spend more time in segregation and maximum security. They are less likely to be granted parole and are more likely to have parole revoked for minor problems.
“If I were releasing a report card on aboriginal corrections today, it would be filled with failing grades,” Sapers said.
“The overrepresentation of aboriginal people in federal corrections and the lack of progress to improve the disparity in correctional outcomes continues to cloud Canada’s domestic human rights record,” Sapers said.
The correctional investigator called on CSC to implement the following actions:
- To appoint a deputy commissioner for aboriginal corrections.
- The development of a long-term strategy to increase opportunities for the care and custody of aboriginal offenders by aboriginal communities, and the re-allocation of adequate funds for these purposes.
- The creation of more community-based healing lodges and permanent funding for them, equal to CSC facilities.
- Ongoing training of CSC staff to ensure adequate understanding of aboriginal people, culture and traditions.
- New and enhanced measures to ensure aboriginal leadership and elders are equal partners in the delivery of community release and re-integration program and services.
- The immediate hiring of more aboriginal community development officers.
- Improving and streamlining the process around accepting and monitoring released offenders into aboriginal communities.