Ottawa, ON, January 21, 2020 – The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is alarmed by the findings released today by the Correctional Investigator of Canada, including the record high rate of incarceration among First Nations, Inuit, and Métis women. Today’s report shows that Indigenous women now represent 42-percent of incarcerated women in Canada. The total percentage of incarcerated Indigenous peoples has now surpassed 30-percent despite representing only 5-percent of the country’s population.
“These findings are nothing short of problematic,” says NWAC President Lorraine Whitman. “It is time that Canada recognizes the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in correctional systems. These findings are a symptom of historical and current systems of colonialism, racism and sexism against First Nations, Métis, and Inuit women.”
The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ (MMIWG) Calls for Justice and the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action both demand transformative change within the criminal justice system. It is NWAC’s position that all governments must commit to urgent action to address the growing and persistent cycle of colonial violence and genocide perpetrated against First Nations, Metis, and Inuit women, girls and gender-diverse people. NWAC urges the Federal Government to make changes to the correctional system, in partnership with Indigenous peoples, to amend systemic oppression and reduce recidivism as well as the social determinants of health that lead to crime.
“All levels of government need to take real action now to reduce the number of incarcerated Indigenous peoples,” says Whitman. “To support the successful reintegration of Indigenous women in a holistic manner, the response needs to recognize the impacts of lived trauma and offer access to gender-based, culturally safe and trauma informed programs and services for women throughout their sentences and upon release.”
The MMIWG Report outlines the reality that Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people face in the criminal justice system, including the many societal issues that lead to their incarceration. The report’s Calls for Justice demand comprehensive changes to the criminal justice system, including creating a Deputy Commissioner for Indigenous Corrections, mandatory cultural training for those involved in the legal system, and asking police services to change the way in which they handle cases involving Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people. NWAC has done significant analysis on these issues – to find out more, visit https://www.nwac.ca/policy-areas/prisons-criminalization/.
To find out more about the Office of the Correctional Investigator’s report, visit https://www.oci-bec.gc.ca/cnt/comm/press/press20200121-eng.aspx.