APTN National News
OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has issued orders to Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and it includes lowering the number of Indigenous people in prisons.
To achieve this Trudeau has instructed Wilson-Raybould to review all changes to the criminal justice system under the former Stephen Harper government with particular attention paid to the use of restorative justice programs geared towards Indigenous people according to his mandate letter issued Friday afternoon.
The mandate letter gave broad strokes of what he expects of Wilson-Raybould, the first Indigenous Justice minister.
Restorative justice programs focus on connecting Indigenous people with their culture and other initiatives, with less attention on putting them in prison or jail.
Raybould-Wilson has been told to work with the new Public Safety and Indigenous affairs ministers to “address gaps in services to Aboriginal people and those with mental illness throughout the criminal justice system.”
The proportion of incarcerated Indigenous people is higher than anyone else according to the 2014 Corrections and Conditional Release Statistical Overview by Public Safety.
The report found the number of Indigenous people in prison has increased by 45 per cent since 2004, with 21 per cent of federal inmates identifying as Indigenous despite representing three per cent of Canada’s population. In the 2013 report, the per cent was 20.5, showing the number is going up.
They are also more likely to be classified in medium or maximum security units, while being designated a dangerous offender at a greater rate of nearly 30 per cent of all Indigenous offenders.
In provinces like Saskatchewan there’s a high rate of Indigenous people held in remand, basically in local jails waiting to have charges heard in court.
Trudeau wants the system to “undertake modernization.” He said that should include using the latest technology to reform bail and sentencing alternatives.
He also wants certain portions of C-51 repealed, while introducing new legislation that “strengthens the accountability with respect to national security.”