Indigenous inmates over 30 per cent of prison population: correctional investigator

Indigenous inmate population has increased by 43.4 per cent since April 2010

Indigenous inmates over 30 per cent of prison population: correctional investigator

A federal government report laments the worsening “Indigenization” of the country’s correctional system, with Indigenous inmates comprising over 30 per cent of the prison population, up from 25 per cent from four years ago.

Although Indigenous people make up only five per cent of the Canadian population, they are increasingly over-represented in prisons. And while the non-Indigenous inmate population has decreased by 13.7 per cent since April 2010, the Indigenous population has risen by 43.4 per cent, with 42 per cent of female inmates are Indigenous women.

These statistics hint at “disturbing and entrenched imbalances,” Dr. Ivan Zinger, Correctional Investigator of Canada, said in a news release last week. He attributed these trends to a number of systemic issues, and noted that Indigenous people are more likely to be assigned to maximum security institutions and to solitary confinement units. They also generally wait longer to be granted parole.

The news release additionally states that “Indigenous people reoffend or are returned to custody at much higher levels, as high as 70 per cent for Indigenous men in the Prairie region.”

Zinger warned that, at current rates, the percentage of Indigenous inmates in prisons may increase to 33 per cent within three years. “It is not acceptable that Indigenous people in this country experience incarceration rates that are six to seven times higher than the national average,” Zinger said. “Bold and urgent action is required to address one of Canada’s most persistent and pressing human rights issues.”

The Office of the Correctional Investigator outlined solutions proposed by various government bodies and advocacy organizations to deal with this problem, including the delegation of responsibility to Indigenous groups and communities, the appointment of a deputy commissioner for Indigenous corrections, and the devotion of resources to reintegration services.

Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, stated in a news release a day after the Office of the Correctional Investigator had released its findings that the report was an “alarming wake-up call” for Canada to confront the discrimination and apathy ingrained into its correctional system.

“We need a justice system that embraces First Nations legal traditions and puts First Nations laws on the same footing as civil law and common law,” Bellegarde said. “Additionally, judges and crown attorneys need to be more responsive to the circumstances of Indigenous offenders and offer alternatives to incarceration.”

Bellegarde added that he intended to meet with Canada’s correctional investigator and the relevant federal ministers in order to discuss a plan of action.

Related stories

Free newsletter

The Canadian Legal Newswire is a FREE newsletter that keeps you up to date on news and analysis about the Canadian legal scene. A separate InHouse Edition is delivered on a regular basis, providing targeted news and information of interest to in-house counsel.

Please enter your email address below to subscribe.

Recent articles & video

Progress for women on boards, less for Indigenous, minorities and those with disabilities: Osler

Canada looks to strengthen presence at UN through treaty bodies

Indigenous peoples must be heard on environmental, social and governance issues: lawyer Naomi Sayers

Manitoba opens consultation on proposed new licence category for third-party delivery companies

Refugee lawyers urge key immigration issues to be prioritized in next parliamentary session

Saskatchewan's legislation ensuring prompt payment to contractors to take effect next year

Most Read Articles

Cities can be sued over 'operational' decisions resulting in tort claims: SCC

Labour arbitrators' exclusive jurisdiction extends to human rights disputes: SCC

B.C. judge sets $60,000 fine on Whistler resident who deliberately fed bears to highlight deterrence

BC Supreme Court rules against employer who laid off, then fired, worker because of pandemic impact