BCCLA reacts to report on over-incarceration of Indigenous people

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Vancouver – Josh Paterson, Executive Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association, reacted today to the report to Parliament by Canada’s correctional investigator that Indigenous people account for 23% of the country’s federal prison population with higher rates in Western Canada, and that Indigenous people are sentenced to longer terms and are less likely to be granted parole than other people:

“This is an appalling example of the discrimination against Indigenous people in this country and it is tearing communities and families apart. While those who commit crimes should be dealt with appropriately by the justice system, these numbers make clear that the system over-polices and over-incarcerates Indigenous people. This is racist and it is unacceptable.

“The situation is particularly bad for Indigenous women, and young Indigenous women in particular. Fifty six percent of girls in BC youth custody are First Nations. As the tragic history of missing and murdered women makes clear, the justice system has failed to protect Indigenous women and instead has focused on punishing them.

“The justice system absolutely must do better in its dealings with Indigenous people. This includes ensuring that Indigenous people are fairly treated in policing, and when charged, fairly treated in sentencing, including taking into account social and historical factors affecting them like colonialism, residential schools and poverty – a requirement that was recently affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada.

“These findings come as no surprise and we see constant examples of this discrimination through our work in communities all over BC. Canada’s unjust over-imprisonment of Indigenous people – at federal and provincial prisons alike – must be put to an end.”