APTN National News
OTTAWA–The federal government won’t be making any changes as a result of the hard-hitting report from Canada’s correctional investigator released Thursday which again sounded the alarm over a growing crisis involving rising rates of First Nation, Inuit and Metis people behind bars.
In a response to the report by Howard Sapers, Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) said it already has programs and plans in place to deal with Aboriginal inmates in federal prisons.
“CSC is dedicated to continuing to address the needs of Aboriginal offenders in the federal correctional system and to ensuring that they can work towards rehabilitation in an inclusive and culturally sensitive environment,” said the response from CSC, which is posted on the agency’s website. “CSC is actively pursuing strategies to provide effective, innovative and multi-faceted interventions for Aboriginal offenders.”
Sapers’ report, Spirit Matters: Aboriginal People and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, found that that the population of Aboriginal inmates behind bars has climbed by 43 per cent over the past years.
About 3,400 Aboriginal men and women account for 23 per cent of the federal inmate population. Aboriginal people make up only 4 per cent of the total population in Canada.
Sapers’ report found that the existing corrections system “perpetuates conditions of disadvantage for Aboriginal people in Canada.” His report said the CSC should make the rehabilitation and reintegration of Aboriginal inmates a “significant priority.”
The report recommended CSC create a deputy commissioner for Aboriginal corrections.
CSC, however, said it would not be creating the position.
“The service continues to believe that the creation of an additional Deputy Commissioner position would add unnecessary bureaucracy and cost to the current governance structure,” said CSC, in its response.
The CSC also balked at Sapers’ recommendation to expand the use of healing lodges. The agency said healing lodges are only a part of its overall strategy and CSC’s focus at the moment was creating partnerships with First Nations communities to provide inmates with skills and training.
“The priority of the Strategic Plan for Aboriginal Corrections in the coming years is the development of strong and sustainable partnerships, resources and services that will support offenders upon release to the community,” said CSC.
CSC responded to Sapers’ recommendation on the need to improve and make on-going its training of staff on Aboriginal people, history, culture and spirituality by saying the agency is already addressing those issues.
“CSC has developed and implemented a Train-the-trainers program, this year, and the trainers are now delivering training focused on Aboriginal case management,” said CSC. “The Aboriginal focused curriculum provides staff with the required tools by following an Aboriginal offender throughout his/her sentence and highlighting the various interventions and considerations that relate to the case management processes.”
During question period Thursday, the Conservative government made it clear it did not believe Aboriginal people behind bars deserve any additional services and accommodation than what is already available.
“The reality is that, unfortunately, Aboriginal people are more often victims of violent crime than other Canadians,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper during question period. “That is why we are taking our role to protect our society very seriously.”
The full CSC response here: