Responding to the TRC Calls to Action March 2016
The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) recognizes the serious problem of overrepresentation of Indigenous Canadians in custody and the need to provide alternatives to incarceration, as well as culturally relevant programs for those who are incarcerated. In August 2015, the CBA called for a commitment from all levels of government to address this issue. Indigenous peoples cannot be lumped into a single collective category. There is tremendous diversity within the First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities. Failing to recognize the uniqueness of diverse groups from Cree to Ojibway to Gwich’in, for example, and their respective cultural expressions of justice, healing and reconciliation, undermines attempts at rehabilitation, undermines attempts at rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders from these groups.
Amendments to the criminal code in 1996 called for alternative sentences to be made available for Indigenous offenders. The legislative framework to encourage partnerships between Correctional Service of Canada and Indigenous communities already exist s in the Correctional and Conditional Release Act, but those provisions remain neglected and underused.
The CBA endorses calls to action 30, 35, 36, 37, 38, 55(v) and 55(vii), which aim specifically to address the overrepresentation of youth and adult Indigenous offenders and to provide culturally specific justice options for Indigenous Canadians. To call to Action 36, we would include reference to parenting and other courses to help Indigenous litigants deal with these same issues in a family context.
In August 2015, the CBA condemned the debilitating and tragic effects of solitary confinement. According to the Office of the Correctional Investigator, solitary confinement impacts Indigenous offenders especially harshly.