A paperwork backlog is forcing Indigenous inmates into higher-security jails in Canada

A paperwork backlog is forcing Indigenous inmates into higher-security jails in Canada

By Dylan Robertson on Nov 29, 2016

Canada’s federal prisons are disproportionately classifying Indigenous prisoners as “high risk” despite a lack of evidence, according to a new audit that highlights the broad problems in the country’s correctional system.

The report by Auditor General Michael Ferguson paints a foreboding picture of how Correctional Service Canada treats Indigenous prisoners, who remain disproportionately incarcerated and held in stricter conditions, while the agency reduces its training on Indigenous issues.The report comes a year after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called on the federal government to end the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in custody over the next decade.

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There is a wide discrepancy between which facilities Indigenous inmates are sent to, compared to non-Indigenous offenders.

The audit found that 16 percent of Indigenous offenders were classified as high risk, compared to just 11 percent of non-Indigenous inmates. Most Indigenous prisoners, 61 percent, are deemed medium-risk, a label reserved for just 47 percent of the rest of the population. Those Indigenous inmates in the higher-security facilities have less access to traditional and spiritual services.Just 23 percent of Indigenous offenders are labelled low-risk, while 42 percent of non-Indigenous inmates receive the same classification. Auditors traced the problem to a blunt risk-rating scale, due in part because provincial and territorial courts are taking months to send relevant documents.

Intake officers are supposed to consult police reports, judge’s comments and Gladue reports — which assesses how an Aboriginal offender was shaped by residential schools and intergenerational trauma. But a study of 45 case files showed that just four included Gladue reports, and nine included judge’s comments.

“The timely release of offenders on parole has a direct bearing on public safety. It could also hinder their successful reintegration into the community.”
Most prisoners are required to undergo rehabilitative programming prior to their release. While delays persist in the prison system in general, Indigenous-specific programming has an average backlog of five months.

These delays, caused mostly by chronic under-staffing, often thwart prisoners’ chances at getting parole. In the audit, which covered the most recent fiscal year, 83 percent of Indigenous inmates had their parole hearings delayed, almost always because they were still undergoing the programming they would need to be released.

As a result, rather than receiving a parole evaluation within the first third of their sentence, Indigenous prisoners are often serving twice as long before getting a chance at day passes or early parole.

Under Canadian law, about half of prisoners are eligible for early release before they finish two-thirds of their sentence. But that process is afforded much less frequency to Indigenous inmates, with nearly seven-in-ten waiting until a statutory release, which takes place after setwo-thirds of their sentence.

The audit also found that most Indigenous prisoners who were granted early release were discharged directly from medium- or maximum-security facilities. The auditors warn that abrupt releases lead to higher rates of reoffending. “The timely release of offenders on parole has a direct bearing on public safety,” they note. “It could also hinder their successful reintegration into the community.”

A possible solution raised by the audit could be to assess inmates down to lower-security prisons prior to their release. Correctional Service Canada has sharply cut Indigenous social history from its training. In 2013, parole officers received two full days of training on Aboriginal social history — now they get just six hours.

Meanwhile, Indigenous prisoners struggle to get culturally relevant programming, such as meetings with elders, healing lodges, and counselling. Those lodges, which are spaces where Indigenous people can live and have access to traditional and spiritual programs and can undergo skills training, are only available for men in minimum security facilities, and for women in minimum- and medium-security prisons. That means the vast majority of Indigenous inmates have no access to these facilities, even though Correctional Services Canada have found that inmates who have lived in these lodges have a lower recidivism rate than the average offender.

The government will respond to the audit Tuesday afternoon. The audit’s findings echo an annual report published earlier this year by prison ombudsman Howard Sapers, who slams the government for making “little discernible or meaningful progress in narrowing the gap in key areas and outcomes that matter to Aboriginal offenders and Canadians.”

Tuesday’s audit covered April 2013 to August 2016, and only looked at prisons operated by Correctional Service Canada. Prisoners often serve sentences of two years or less at provincial jails.

Canada’s Crime Rate Is up for the First Time in 12 Years and You Can (Mostly) Blame Alberta!

Canada’s Crime Rate Is up for the First Time in 12 Years and You Can (Mostly) Blame Alberta!

By Ebony-Renee @Vice

Crime in Canada increased for the first time in 12 years, and, for the most part, it’s all thanks to Alberta, according to new data.

Statistics Canada reported that there was an 18 percent jump in the province’s crime severity index (CSI), which determines the volume and severity of police-reported crime. Canada’s overall CSI saw a five percent increase from 2014 to 2015.police-620-03849006

This spike in Albertan crime has be attributed to many factors, such as the economic downturn due to falling oil prices and a rise of drug-related crime.

Edmonton Police Chief Rod Knecht told reporters this week that he wasn’t surprised about the increase.

“We kind of anticipated this. We know property crimes continue to go up again this year – that’s driving it. The big driver is break and enters, thefts from vehicles and thefts of vehicles… and it continues to cascade into 2016,” he said.

Read More: Fentanyl Took Over My Life, This Is How I Got It Back

He said that there isn’t much they can do about it because of the state of their economy, and urges Albertans to lock their cars (thanks, dude.) Beside property crime, violent crime in Alberta has not seen as much of an increase.

“The other violent crimes, other than homicides, are down right now,” Knecht said. “[The rates] are just trending evenly over the past five years.”

Last year’s rise in fentanyl usage can also be considered when looking at Alberta’s rising crime rates. StatsCan reported an national increase in drug-related offences—other than marijuana—in 2015. Crime involving fentanyl increased by six percent. Last year, there were almost 300 fentanyl overdoses in Alberta alone.

Other provinces that saw an increase in crime last year include Saskatchewan, Ontario and British Columbia.

Komagata Maru Incident: Trudeau Formally Apologizes In House Of Commons

Komagata Maru Incident: Trudeau Formally Apologizes In House Of Commons

The Canadian Press (Huffington Post)

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau formally apologized Wednesday in the House of Commons for a 1914 government decision that barred most of the passengers of the Japanese steamship Komagata Maru from entering Canada.

Question Period 20160518
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau answers a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 18, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

The chartered vessel was carrying 376 Indian passengers, nearly all of them Sikhs, bound for what they thought would be a new life in Canada.

They were hoping to challenge the immigration laws at the time which refused entry to any Indians who had not arrived in Canada via a continuous journey from the home country — nearly impossible at the time.

Except for 20 passengers who had previously lived in Canada, Canadian officials refused to allow the Indians in, even though they were British subjects just like every other Canadian of the time.

The vessel returned to India, where 19 of the passengers were killed in a skirmish with British authorities and dozens of others were imprisoned or forced into hiding.

Justin Trudeau
Members of the Sikh Caucus surround Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after he was presented with a sword during a Vaisakhi Celebration on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Monday, April 11, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

“Canada cannot solely be blamed for every tragic mistake that occurred with the Komagata Maru and its passengers,” a Trudeau told the House, which was packed with MPs and onlookers, many of whom had travelled from across the country.

“But Canada’s government was, without question, responsible for the laws that prevented these passengers from immigrating peacefully and securely. For that, and for every regrettable consequence that followed, we are sorry.”

Trudeau’s formal apology is the second from a Canadian prime minister. Former prime minister Stephen Harper delivered an apology in 2008 in British Columbia, not the House of Commons.

“No words can fully erase the pain and suffering they experienced. Regrettably, the passage of time means that none are alive to hear our apology today,” he said.

“Still, we offer it, fully and sincerely. For our indifference to your plight. For our failure to recognize all that you had to offer. For the laws that discriminated against you, so senselessly. And for not formally apologizing sooner.

“For all these things, we are truly sorry.”

The B.C. legislature passed its own resolution apologizing in May 2008.