Immediate Action Needed on First Nations Corrections
(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo today expressed the need for action in response to the Special Report on Aboriginal Corrections by Correctional Investigator of Canada, Mr. Howard Sapers tabled today in Parliament. This independent report comes on the heels of another damaging report last week which pointed to racism and systemic discrimination in the Ontario justice system by Justice Iacobucci. The incarceration rate for First Nations Aboriginal adults in Canada is estimated to be 10 times higher than the incarceration rate of non-Aboriginal adults.
The AFN has long advocated that the best strategy to reduce the crisis of the disproportionate and growing incarceration rates for First Nations people is to increase investments in education. We need to work together to increase graduation rates from high school, post-secondary and training programs as the best remedies we have to keep our youth away from the justice system and out of prisons. This will require high quality, culturally relevant education which reflects our identities, languages and needs.
“There is a crisis for First Nations people, their families and communities in Canada’s justice system and prisons,” said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo. “With a near 40 percent increase in the incarcerated population of our people in the last decade, it’s time for urgent, substantive and meaningful change – at the front end with investments in early childhood, elementary and secondary education, and skills training and at the back end by committing to work in partnership with First Nations leaders, Elders and citizens to strengthen and enhance the justice and corrections systems.”
“It costs about 10 times more to incarcerate a person for one year than it does to educate them for single year of high school," said AFN Justice Portfolio holder, Alberta Regional Chief Cameron Alexis. “An investment in nurturing the self-esteem, ambition and dreams of our children and youth will pay the greatest dividends and cost significantly less than having them end-up in the justice system. A holistic approach is required to address quality of life issues - lifelong learning, child welfare, housing, clean drinking water, infrastructure, environment, and jurisdiction.”
First Nations peoples’ experience with the justice and corrections system has been studied and reported upon repeatedly. All successive governments have failed to act and now is the time to listen and work with First Nations communities on these issues immediately.
Iacobucci’s Report last week and the Special Report to Parliament this week are but the tip of the iceberg. Surely, the evidence is in and the time for dedicated focus, substantive progress and a reduction in disparities of treatment and outcomes for First Nations people is right now.
This report will help inform ongoing discussions with the federal government, and our national forum on community safety and ending violence on April 9 and 10, 2013. For more information: http://www.afn.ca/uploads/files/events/forumendingviolence-kit.pdf
The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow us on Twitter @AFN_Updates, @AFN_Comms