Correctional investigator says prison agency is spending its dollars poorly

Canada’s correctional investigator says the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) is spending its dollars poorly when it comes to tackling chronically high Indigenous incarceration rates.

“I keep saying that I don’t care how much people spend if they can get good correctional outcomes and show improvement,” Ivan Zinger told Nation to Nation. “But this (CSC) is struggling to change correctional outcomes and should be looking at other alternatives and one of them is reallocating a significant portion of CSC’s budget to fund Indigenous communities so that they can look after healing lodges or supervision of Indigenous people.”

Zinger released his annual report on Nov. 1 and in it he levels serious criticism at the federal department of corrections for allocating its budget in a top-down and corporate manner while failing to include Indigenous groups in planning.

The underutilization of healing lodges is just one example of CSC’s refusal to do things differently, he said.

This is in spite of the fact Ottawa has some of the highest spendings on corrections in the world with $190,000 per year to keep a person in federal custody and a staffing ratio of 1.2 staff per prisoner.

Zinger is recommending the Trudeau government shift $500 million over 10 years out of CSC’s budget to community initiatives.

Federal governments past and present have largely ignored the correctional investigator’s recommendations but one the Trudeau government is acting on is the appointment of a deputy commissioner of Indigenous corrections.

However, Zinger said he is disappointed with the way the Liberals have created the position.

This is because in its current form the commissioner will not have the necessary power to make a real change according to the correctional investigator.

He said the position that is posted is at the level of a director general when it should really be at the very least at an assistant deputy minister level.

“It seems to me that again what may happen is the person who will represent Indigenous corrections will be not equal at the table, being a lower level, and I think that is a shame.”

Despite accounting for about five per cent of Canada’s population, Indigenous people make up 32 per cent of those in federal prisons and Indigenous women make up a staggering 50 per cent of females in federal incarceration.

Heading to Egypt to talk about the climate crisis

A First Nations-led organization is on its way to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt next week as part of the Canadian delegation.

The First Nations Climate Initiative is made up of the Haisla Nation, Metlakatla First Nation, Nisga’a Nation and recently joined Halfway River First Nation located in the province of British Columbia.

FNCI’s Candice Wilson says COP 27 presents a major opportunity for Indigenous communities to show the world what they have to offer in terms of fighting climate change.

“Indigenous Nations in Canada and B.C. are leading the way to mitigating climate change and hopefully other countries can get motivated and be inspired by the leadership we’re taking in our country,” Wilson told Nation to Nation. “And we hope our leadership within the federal and provincial government can hear this message as well.”

According to its literature, FNCI aims to “achieve decarbonization and decolonization in tandem.”

The organization supports the use of carbon neutral energy sources such as hydro electrification and natural gas, a global approach to carbon reduction, carbon sinks and investment in green technologies in First Nations communities.

Sanctions against big polluters

And lastly, a Liberal MP from New Brunswick says it is time big polluters faced criminal sanctions under international law.

Jenica Atwin is part of the Stop Ecocide International initiative and she told Nation to Nation heavy fines on big polluting companies are not enough to hold them accountable.

“We currently have a system where you pay if you are accused of an infraction and you move on,” she said. “I think that we see so many of the big polluters, it’s part of their daily budget. Even though many of us are paying the price as we see with air pollution, as we see with some of these climate change advances, as we’re seeing with droughts and floods and we need to be making them more accountable.”

Atwin was part of a Stop Ecocide press conference earlier this week which included Green Party MP Elizabeth May and the NDP’s Alexandre Boulerice.