Civil liberties watchdog says report on aboriginal prisoners depicts a "racist" system
The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association has issued an impassioned response to a government report that paints a picture of a Canadian judicial system that is “racist” towards aboriginals.
“This is an appalling example of the discrimination against Indigenous people in this country and it is tearing communities and families apart,” reads a statement attributed to BCCLA executive director Josh Paterson.
According to the report, which was prepared by the Office of the Correctional Investigator and tabled in the House of Commons on March 7, aboriginal people account for 23 percent of the country’s federal prison population. The document states that there has been a 43 percent increase in the number of aboriginal inmate since 2005-06.
Aboriginals constitute 3.8 percent of Canada’s entire population, according to 2006 census data. (Statistics Canada conducts a national census once every five years. Data released from the 2011 census has so-far not included statistics specific to aboriginals.)
“These numbers make clear that the system over-polices and over-incarcerates Indigenous people,” the BCCA’s statement continues. “This is racist and it is unacceptable.”
The plight of aboriginal women is especially concerning, the BCCLA notes.
“Fifty six percent of girls in BC youth custody are First Nations,” it states. “As the tragic history of missing and murdered women makes clear, the justice system has failed to protect Indigenous women and instead has focused on punishing them.”
The release concludes: “Canada’s unjust over-imprisonment of Indigenous people—at federal and provincial prisons alike—must be put to an end.”
The correctional investigator’s report, “Spirit Matters: Aboriginal People and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act,” states that high incarceration rates for aboriginal people are linked to social, economic, and historical factors.