Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino announced Monday that Kathy Neil has been named as the deputy commissioner for Indigenous corrections within the Correctional Service of Canada.
According to a release sent by the minister, Neil “will play an integral role within CSC to help address issues within the correctional system, including the disproportionate overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples.
“This new position will also work to build and further partnerships with Indigenous peoples, groups, and communities, as well as ensure the delivery of culturally appropriate interventions, supports and services for federal offenders.”
Neil, from Saskatoon, is currently an assistant deputy commissioner of correctional operations for the Correctional Service of Canada on the Prairies. According to the release, Neil has been the Warden of Saskatchewan Penitentiary, a community health worker and a crisis intervention counsellor.
“As an Indigenous woman, I am honoured to take on this new role as CSC’s Deputy Commissioner for Indigenous Corrections,” said Neil in the release. “Through my personal and professional experience, I have seen first-hand the challenges and opportunities we have before us to improve the lives of Indigenous peoples in our care and custody.
“I believe in the importance of meaningful partnerships and engagement with Indigenous communities, and will work hard to ensure that together, we achieve positive outcomes.”
The position is a long time in the making.
For more than a decade Canada’s prison watchdog, the Office of the Correctional Investigator, has been recommending that CSC create a position that deals only with Indigenous peoples locked up in penitentiaries.
The recommendations were largely ignored until Mendocino ordered Anne Kelly, commissioner of corrections, to create the position in 2022 to “ensure appropriate attention and accountability towards Indigenous issues in the correctional system, address the overrepresentation of Indigenous offenders,” the letter to Kelly said.
The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission also said the position was important to improve the lives of federal Indigenous inmates.
According to the latest statistics, First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples make up 32 per cent of Canada’s prison population despite only making up five per sent of the country’s population. Indigenous women make up 50 per cent of the female prison population.
“Kathy has extensive knowledge of Indigenous communities, their history, and of the federal inmate population in Canada,” the release said. “This has helped her develop robust partnerships and initiatives that are culturally appropriate and sensitive to the needs of federal offenders and their support networks.”
There are now six deputy commissioners within the correctional service who all report to Kelly and develop policies for the agency.