Current Problems

Justice (25-42)

Incarceration rates of Indigenous people

December 17, 2021

Correctional Investigator – The Correctional Investigator, Dr. Ivan Zinger, released new data that shows that the proportion of incarcerated Indigenous women has continued to increase unabated, and is nearing 50% of all federally-sentenced women. On January 21, 2020, the Office of the Correctional Investigator reported that the proportion of Indigenous men and women in federal custody had reached a new historic high, surpassing 30% of the overall incarcerated population. The combined men and women Indigenous proportion in federal corrections is now 32%, and climbing.

“In the very near future, Canada will reach a sad milestone where half of all federally sentenced women in custody will be of Indigenous ancestry, despite representing less than 5% of the total population of women in Canada,” stated Dr. Zinger. “Surpassing the 50% threshold suggests that current efforts to reverse the Indigenization of Canada’s correctional population are not having the desired effect and that much bolder and swifter reforms are required.”

The statistical trends indicate that the number of Indigenous people in federal custody is increasing at a time when overall numbers of incarcerated people are declining. “On this trajectory, assuming overall declines in new admissions to custody, Canada will reach historic and unconscionable levels of Indigenous concentration in federal penitentiaries,” said Dr. Zinger. In fact, in the last ten years, the overall Indigenous inmate population has increased by 18.1%, whereas the non-Indigenous incarcerated population has decreased over the same period by 28.26%. “Over-representation of Indigenous people in correctional settings remains one of Canada’s most pressing human rights issues, and is evidence of public policy failures over successive decades as no government has been able to stop or reverse this trend,” said the Correctional Investigator.

Dr. Zinger concluded his statement by calling on Government and the Correctional Service of Canada to fully implement recent calls to action from Parliamentary Committees, Commissions of Inquiry, as well as recommendations from his Office – including creating and appointing a Deputy Commissioner for Indigenous corrections – that would significantly reallocate existing resources from the Correctional Service of Canada to Indigenous communities and groups for the care, custody and supervision of Indigenous people. “Healing Lodges and community-based services owned and operated by Indigenous communities can only yield better outcomes for federally sentenced Indigenous people,” stated Dr. Zinger.