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Regina chapter at protest against high incarceration rates for Indigenous peoples

Photo by Nathan Redekop

The Council of Canadians Regina chapter joined a Saskatchewan Coalition Against Racism protest at the Prince Albert penitentiary today.

A Facebook notes, “Great protest action in solidarity with PA Penitentiary prisoners over the lunch hour.”

CBC reports, “Protest co-organizer Robyn Pitawanakwat called on Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, citing disproportionately high numbers of Indigenous people incarcerated in Saskatchewan.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission made several recommendations with respect to the criminal justice system including, “We call upon federal, provincial, and territorial governments to commit to eliminating the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in custody over the next decade, and to issue detailed annual reports that monitor and evaluate progress in doing so.”

The Commission also stated, “We call upon the federal, provincial, and territorial governments to provide sufficient and stable funding to implement and evaluate community sanctions that will provide realistic alternatives to imprisonment for Aboriginal offenders and respond to the underlying causes of offending.”

In addition, today’s protest highlighted the need for edible and healthy food for prisoners, access to basic health care, access to cultural activities and elders, and no abusive treatment or violence from corrections staff.

Maclean’s magazine has reported, “In Canada, the Indigenous incarceration rate is 10 times higher than the non-Indigenous population – higher even than South Africa at the height of apartheid. In Saskatchewan, if you’re Indigenous, you’re 33 times more likely to be incarcerated, according to a 1999 report, the most recent available. [It’s] why criminologists have begun quietly referring to Canada’s prisons and jails as the country’s ‘new residential schools’.”

That article also noted, “While admissions of white adults to Canadian prisons declined through the last decade, Indigenous incarceration rates were surging: Up 112 per cent for women. Already, 36 per cent of the women and 25 per cent of men sentenced to provincial and territorial custody in Canada are Indigenous – a group that makes up just four per cent of the national population. Add in federal prisons, and Indigenous inmates account for 22.8 per cent of the total incarcerated population.”

In the October 2015 federal election, the Liberals promised “to enact the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission”, but 16 months into their mandate little progress is evident on that front.

The Council of Canadians endorsed all 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in June 2015.