Indigenous decarceration essential to advancing reconciliation

  • August 17, 2022

The Canadian Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section and its Committee on Imprisonment and Release wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his colleagues in support of Indigenous decarceration and self determination.

At its February 2022 Annual General Meeting, the CBA voted to adopt Resolution 22-03-A, committing the organization to urging federal, provincial and territorial governments to:

  • negotiate an action plan with Indigenous groups within two years to offer well-resourced preventative community-based services; and alternatives to incarceration of Indigenous peoples, with a goal of significantly reducing incarceration rates;
  • implement the action plan immediately, and monitor its progress annually, and amend it as necessary;
  • shift funding from the Correctional Service of Canada and from provincial and territorial correctional services to Indigenous communities to implement the action plan.

Noting that the “mass incarceration of Indigenous peoples in Canadian prisons is increasing at an alarming rate,” the CBA Section points out that it represents a continuation of genocide against Indigenous peoples. “Indigenous communities are systemically denied funding to offer healing services to their members to prevent involvement in the criminal justice system and to offer alternatives to imprisonment.”

The letter acknowledges the federal government believes advancing reconciliation requires dealing with not only systemic racism but the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in the Canadian criminal justice system.

“We ask that government keep the CBA apprised of developments in implementing an action plan with Indigenous groups under Canada’s United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act as it relates to shifting authority and funding for alternatives to incarceration of Indigenous people in Canada,” the letter concludes.