Despite government “commitment to reconciliation” Indigenous over incarceration continues to rise.
TTAWA, ON– The Indigenous Bar Association (‘IBA’) expresses outrage at the continually rising rate of Indigenous incarceration. Despite calls to justice by the Nation Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), the Truth and Reconciliation Commission findings, the Office of the Correctional Investigator and both former and present Chief Justices, Canada’s abhorrent decarceration attempts are unacceptable.
The Office of the Correctional Investigator found the number of Indigenous people incarcerated has become a human rights issue. Indigenous people are more likely to be incarcerated and are subsequently more likely to be placed in segregation units. Statistics Canada recalls in 2006/2007 the proportion of Indigenous people entered into correctional services at provincial and territorial levels was 21% and 19% at federal institutions. In 2016/2017 those numbers drastically increase to 28% in provincial and territorial institutions and 27% in federal institutions. Indigenous women account for 43% of all custodial admissions.
In 1999 the Supreme Court of Canada in R v Gladue,  1 SCR 688 recognized the importance of restorative justice measures for addressing the disproportionate number of incarcerated Indigenous people. The Court found when sentencing an aboriginal offender, a judge must consider any unique systemic or background factors and alternate sentencing procedures to incarceration. Despite the clear guidance from Canada’s highest court, the majority of provinces have not implemented a procedure for producing what have come to be called “Gladue Reports” for Indigenous offenders.
Legal reforms are urgently needed to address systemic discrimination and bias within the justice system. The IBA recommends legal reform focused on equipping Indigenous Nations to regulate offenders in traditional ways.
The IBA calls on Indigenous, Federal, Provincial, Territorial and Municipal governments to immediately adopt the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action 31 and 34, which calls upon the justice system to provide alternatives to imprisonment and to undertake reforms to better address the needs of offending persons with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.
The IBA calls upon those same governments to immediately adopt and pay specific attention to the National Inquiry into MMIWG’s Calls For Justice 5.14 and 5.21 which calls for specific attention to the over incarceration of Indigenous women and the implementation of recommendations made by the Office of the Correctional Investigator and the Auditor General of Canada.
The Indigenous Bar Association is a national association comprised of Indigenous lawyers (practicing and non-practicing), judges, legal academics and scholars, articling clerks and law students, including graduate and post-graduate law students. We are mandated to promote the advancement of legal and social justice for Indigenous peoples in Canada and the reform of laws and policies affecting Indigenous peoples.
For further information contact Scott Robertson, President of the Indigenous Bar Association at email@example.com.