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Conservatives Must Immediately Address Gross Overrepresentation of Aboriginal Peoples in Prison

Conservatives Must Immediately Address Gross Overrepresentation of Aboriginal Peoples in Prison

Posted on March 7, 2013

OTTAWA– Liberal Public Safety critic Francis Scarpaleggia made the following statement today on the Correctional Investigator’s report on Aboriginal inmates in our federal penitentiaries:

“Correctional Investigator Howard Sapers’ report, Spirit Matters: Aboriginal People and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, confirms the staggeringly disproportionate number of Aboriginal Peoples filling our prisons, and the reality that this trend is intensifying at a rapid rate. In fact, under the Harper Conservatives’ failed crime agenda, the Aboriginal inmate population has increased by a shocking 43.5%, compared to only a 9.6% increase in non-Aboriginal inmates.

We simply cannot afford to allow this injustice to continue. The Conservatives must invest significantly in culturally appropriate correctional programming, and act urgently to reduce discriminatory systemic barriers that prevent positive outcomes for Aboriginal offenders by implementing the key recommendations of Mr. Sapers’ report.”

Liberal Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development critic, Dr. Carolyn Bennett, continued:

“Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples comprise just 4% of our general population yet they now make up nearly 25% of our prison population. That is nothing short of appalling.

This Conservative government’s reckless policies have exacerbated this glaring overrepresentation – rooted in long-standing social and economic factors, as well as systemic discrimination faced by Aboriginal Peoples in our justice system – and unfortunately it will continue to worsen given the lack of funding for education and social services on reserves. As National Chief Atleo has counseled, when you open the door to a school, you close the door to a jail cell.

It is time that the government stop ignoring this crisis, implement the recommendations in the Correctional Investigator’s report, and commit to addressing this unfairness in the upcoming federal budget.”