‘It’s disappointing’: Corrections maintains status quo as number of Indigenous women tops 40% of prison population

Since 2010, the federal inmate population has increased only 1.2 per cent, while the Indigenous population has increased by 52.1 per cent.

Despite calls from a number of federal agencies and committees, the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) says it has an “appropriate” level of governance to serve the high number of Indigenous people locked away in Canada’s penitentiaries particularly women who now make up more than 40 per cent of the female population in prison.

“It’s disappointing,” said Ivan Zinger, the Correctional Investigator of Canada.

Because of the high rates of incarceration, Zinger, along with a number of federal advocates, Auditor General for Canada, House of Commons and Senate committees, and now the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and GirlsAPTN Investigates: Indigenous people in Canada behind bars

Sensing little change with the outcomes of Indigenous inmates, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, whose department CSC falls under, directed Kelly to review its governance structure.

(Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale. Photo: Tom Fennario/APTN)

Goodale’s request on Sept. 5, 2018 was to, “re-examine CSC’s governance structure and the role of the National Aboriginal Advisory Committee in order to ensure greater integration of Indigenous needs and perspectives into CSC decisions at the senior level.”

“I look forward to receiving an update from you on this process by December 2018, with implementation in 2019,” the minister said in his mandate letter.

The minister’s office said CSC is still reviewing the decision.

“Minister Goodale received an update on December 18, 2018. CSC is undertaking a broader review of the governance of Indigenous Corrections, including the role of the National Aboriginal Advisory Committee,” said Public Safety spokesperson Scott Beardsley.

“We are expecting an update on the outcomes of the governance review in the near future, including proposals to strengthen Indigenous Corrections as requested in the mandate letter.”


(Anne Kelly, commissioner for the Correctional Service of Canada says the current goverance structure is “appropriate” to help Indigenous offenders. Photo: Mark Blackburn/APTN)

The Senate committee on Human Rights issued an interim report on Canada’s prisons in March.

The report confirmed life inside is harder for people of colour: “tackling this issue is particularly urgent for federally-sentenced Indigenous and Black persons who are significantly overrepresented in the correctional system.”

Its full report is due out later this month.

“There’s a culture in corrections that is very strong… it’s very difficult to turn around,” said Zinger. “There’s a sense that they know better.

“That’s why you have to look at performance, and if the performance isn’t there doing more isn’t going to effect change.”

APTN requested an interview with Anne Kelly but was told the “CSC is still reviewing the recommendations and at this time, the Commissioner would not be in a position to provide an interview.

“We may be able to accommodate this request in the future.”


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