Canadian Human Rights Commission Calls for Action on Indigenous Incarceration Rates

man behind bars in jail

OTTAWA – Responding to the 50th Annual Report by the Office of the Correctional Investigator (OCI), the Canadian Human Rights Commission, led by Interim Chief Commissioner Charlotte-Anne Malischewski, has issued an urgent call to action regarding the disproportionate number of Indigenous individuals in federal prisons.

The Annual Report highlighted worrying statistics about the prevalence of Indigenous persons in the penal system, a concern echoed by the Human Rights Commission. The Commission’s statement underscored the distressing human rights implications for Indigenous inmates, who face harsh realities and widening disparities compared to their non-Indigenous counterparts.

Citing numerous complaints from Indigenous inmates, the Commission is advocating for the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) to adopt the OCI’s recommendations. These recommendations are geared toward improving the treatment and outcomes for Indigenous people in the criminal justice system. They include:

  • Increased involvement and support for Elders within the prison environment.
  • More extensive staff training on Indigenous cultural safety and awareness.
  • Enhanced funding for Indigenous-run healing lodges.
  • A greater role for Indigenous communities in the rehabilitation of inmates, from the beginning of their sentence to their reintegration into society.

The statement also supports the OCI’s demand for the CSC to annually and transparently report its progress in tackling Indigenous overrepresentation, using clear performance indicators.

The Human Rights Commission welcomed the CSC’s move to appoint its first Deputy Commissioner for Indigenous Corrections, recognizing it as a positive, albeit initial, step towards dismantling the systemic barriers Indigenous individuals face in federal corrections.

The Commission’s statement concluded by pressing the federal government to take decisive action by developing a national Indigenous decarceration strategy, emphasizing that reconciliation efforts must include a commitment to address these incarceration rates genuinely.

Reflecting on the broader implications for Canadian society, the Commission reminded that every individual, including those within the criminal justice system, is entitled to a dignified life free of discrimination. The Commission maintains that implementing the OCI’s recommendations is not only a matter of upholding human rights but also a critical step towards ensuring the safety and humane treatment of all society members, particularly the most vulnerable.

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