October 17, 2018 (Ottawa, ON) The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) is pleased with the introduction of Bill C-83, Corrections and Conditional Release Act, tabled yesterday by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale. If passed, the inhumane treatment of inmates through solitary confinement will end in federal correctional facilities. It will also require that Correctional Services Canada consider systemic and background factors affecting Indigenous offenders in all decision-making.
Proposed Structured Intervention Units (SIU) will include programming for Indigenous offenders related to culture and healing. The use of cultural teachings has proven effective in the rehabilitation of our peoples who are incarcerated. CAP believes this is a positive step forward for the rights of Indigenous Peoples in the Canadian justice system, and could improve outcomes for CAP’s constituency of off-reserve Indigenous Peoples.
In Canada, Indigenous people account for 25% of the inmate population yet only 4% of the total population. Indigenous inmates also have longer prison sentences, spend more time in segregation or maximum security, and are less likely granted parole, or have their parole revoked than non-Indigenous offenders. In January 2018, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Peter Leask ruled that existing laws surrounding solitary confinement are cruel, inhumane, and discriminate against Indigenous inmates and the mentally ill, violating Charter Section 15, which enshrines equality rights. National Chief Robert Bertrand and National Vice-Chief Kim Beaudin expressed their discontent in the federal government’s decision to appeal Justice Leask’s ruling.
“Bill C-83 is an important step forward to ensure the humane treatment of all inmates and tackle discrimination against Indigenous peoples within the Corrections system. This is merely a first step. CAP believes it is crucial to work with all National Indigenous Organizations, and looks forward to its participation in the proposed national Indigenous advisory committee. Only by working together and offering the necessary supports will we decrease the over-incarceration of Indigenous people in Canada, and reduce recidivism” National Chief Robert Bertrand.
“CAP’s nationwide constituency made it a key resolution at our 2017 Assembly to advocate for a national inquiry into Canada’s justice system and the policies relating to solitary confinement. As such, we commend the federal government for Bill C-83, which implements some of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action regarding justice” says National Vice-Chief Kim Beaudin.
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The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples is the national voice representing the interests of Métis, status and non-status Indians, and Southern Inuit Indigenous People living off-reserve. Today, over 70% of Indigenous people live off-reserve.