Government Response to over representation of indigenous people in jails and prisons


I remember when the Truth and Reconciliation (‘TRC’) report was delivered in 2015 and how Justin Trudeau said immediately, without any hesitation, he accepted all of the calls to action of the Commission. I was very impressed, though I wondered a bit how he could say that. The Report was lengthy. Had he even gone too far, I wondered.

Remember that across Canada, 25% of all incarcerated people are indigenous while they make up only about 4% of the Canadian population. In Manitoba the situation is even much worse—more like 75% of those incarcerated when the population of indigenous people is about 11% in Manitoba. Those statistics say a lot more about this country than fine words. This is a big deal—a big problem. Everyone recognizes it. Well almost everyone.

In Call to Action #30, of their report  the TRC called on the federal, provincial and territorial governments to commit to eliminating the over representation of aboriginal people in custody. On the CBC radio program The Sunday Edition which aired on August 2, 2020, 5 years after the TRC report was delivered to near unanimous approval, guest host Elamin Abdelmahmoud asked Senator Murray Sinclair who had been the Chair of the TRC, “How would you evaluate the governments’ commitment to that?”

Senator Sinclair’s answer was swift, simple, and clear: “Zero.”

Senator Sinclair went on to say, “They say they are doing something about it but their numbers belie that. The rates are still the same. The agencies have not changed how they do things. The use of healing lodges for women has stopped.”

Everyone acknowledges these are good ideas and should be done, but the governments have not committed the money needed. So, of course, the problems continue as before. This is what Senator Sinclair said:

“I was generally quite disappointed by their response that it was going to cost a lot of money to do these things. And yet there was virtually no hesitation for the government of Canada to come up with 7 billion dollars, now almost 11 or 12 billion dollars to buy a pipeline. I thought when they need the money to satisfy a corporate lobby they can find it. J When they need the money to in order to save lives or change lives they can’t find it. It really tells you what the priorities of the government are.”


Indeed, given the lack of demand by the Canadian public I would have so say we know the priorities of the Canadian people. Fine words are pretty cheap beer.


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