Report highlights failings of a colonial, “revolving door” correctional system – Indigenous people remain grossly overrepresented in federal prisons.
For Immediate Release
November 8, 2023
(Okanagan Syilx Territory, Westbank BC): The BC First Nations Justice Council (BCFNJC) joins First Nations and Indigenous peoples across BC in calling for urgent changes to a fundamentally broken and discriminatory correctional system following the release of the 50th Annual Report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator. The report contains updated findings from Correctional Investigator of Canada, Dr. Ivan Zinger, on the deteriorating state and experiences of Indigenous peoples in Canadian corrections.
A decade after the release of the original report, Spirit Matters: Aboriginal People and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, Dr. Zinger has found that the over-representation of Indigenous people in federal prisons has increased to 32% from 23% in 2013, while Indigenous women now constitute half of the total female federal inmate population compared to 25% in 2013.
“BCFNJC condemns the distressing and deeply concerning findings of Dr. Zinger’s investigation. Ten years have passed since Spirit Matters was released and we have seen no justice, no improvement, no meaningful, systemic action from the Canadian Government to advance and fulfill the recommendations of the Office of the Correctional Investigator set out in that report – the ever-climbing rates of Indigenous over-incarceration is absolutely unacceptable, and all Canadians should be concerned,” stated Kory Wilson, BCFNJC Chair. “The BC First Nations Justice Strategy exists on one hand to end the dehumanizing treatment of Indigenous people in the Canadian legal system, and on the other, to support the revitalization of traditional Indigenous legal orders which predate the colonial system. On top of actioning the recommendations of Spirit Matters, Canada has an obligation to support Indigenous-led solutions, including the BC First Nations Justice Strategy, in a manner consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. A crucial aspect of this work involves supporting and advancing Strategy 14, in the BC First Nations Justice Strategy, which mandates the expansion of culturally-based programs throughout corrections, as well as developing new, First Nations led corrections. As BCFNJC expands its capacity to provide legal services and commence work, in earnest, on corrections reform, we will be looking to our partners in BC and Public Safety Canada to support these parts of the Strategy that they have committed to implement.”
“The staggering increase in the number of Indigenous women in federal custody is alarming and heartbreaking. The fact that Indigenous women account for 50% of the total federal female inmate population, while only representing 4% of women in Canada, indicates that our justice system is deeply flawed and does not value the lives of Indigenous women. We need systemic and meaningful change, which is why under Strategy 11 of the BC First Nations Justice Strategy, BCFNJC is working with First Nations across BC to develop and implement an Indigenous Women & 2S+ Justice Plan,” continued Kory Wilson. “Given the overrepresentation of Indigenous women in our child welfare and legal systems and the ongoing impacts of colonial violence, BCFNJC has a team dedicated to uplifting Indigenous women and girls and dismantling the barriers they face to equity and justice. Currently, this team is presenting the guiding draft of BCFNJC’s Indigenous Women & 2S+ Justice Plan for feedback and stories within communities, with the final plan and its lines of action to be ratified by First Nations leadership and released to the public in March 2024. While our team is in its last few weeks of in-person and virtual engagements, we strongly encourage interested communities and individuals to check out our calendar and join us to share your feedback. Now, more than ever, we need our communities guiding the way to a safer, responsive justice system that does not marginalize, criminalize, and over-incarcerate Indigenous people.”
About the BCFNJC
The BC First Nations Justice Council has been entrusted with the mandate to transform the justice system and create better outcomes for Indigenous people through implementation of the BC First Nations Justice Strategy.
The strategy, signed March 06, 2020, was jointly developed by the BC First Nations Justice Council, BC First Nations communities and the Province of British Columbia. It includes 43 actions along two paths which involve the reformation of the current system as well as the restoration of First Nations’ legal traditions and structures.
BC First Nations Justice Council
Natalie Martin (she/her)
Director of Communications
Email: [email protected]