Harper government expected to re-appoint prison ombudsman to shorter term

By Kenneth Jackson
APTN National News
The guy who criticizes the federal government on its prisons, particularly the treatment of Aboriginal offenders, says he expects to be re-appointed as the Correctional Investigator but for a shorter term.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Howard Sapers was still waiting for confirmation from the Harper government.

Sapers’ five-year term runs out at day’s end.

“I’m waiting to hear,” said Sapers. “I know a ministerial recommendation has been made and I know that recommendation is being considered.”

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney has made the recommendation said Sapers, adding it requires some paperwork to be completed before it can be made final.

The legislation allows for terms of up to five years, however Sapers said he doesn’t think he’ll get that long.

“I suspect it to be for much less than the five years,” he said. “There’s been discussions ongoing for the last six months regarding the question of my re-appointment.”

He wouldn’t say why he believes that.

Because Blaney has made the recommendation, the office will have the legal authority to continue until a final decision has been announced said Sapers.

APTN asked Blaney’s office to confirm the recommendation, and whether it’s for a shorter term, but has yet to receive a response.

Sapers’ reports on Canada’s prisons have been critical since he joined the office 11 years ago.

In 2013, his office reported the number of Aboriginal peoples in prisons increased by nearly 50 per cent in the last 10 years, yet during the same period, the amount of Caucasian inmates dropped.

Sapers’ found Aboriginal peoples represent a “staggering” 23 per cent of federal inmates but make up just 4.3 per cent of the total Canadian population.

“These are disturbing trends that raise important questions about equality and our justice system in Canada” Sapers said in a press release.

He also found that one-in-three women in federal prisons are Aboriginal.

This trend is something that he still considers a “major” file in his office.

“One of our major ongoing files has to do with the gaps and outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal offenders and to try to narrow that gap through appropriate programming,” he said.

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Producer Nation to Nation - Ottawa

Kenneth is a journalist with nearly two decades of reporting experience who focuses on crime and social issues, including child welfare and wrongful convictions. He has worked out of APTN’s Ottawa bureau since October 2012.