By Julia Magsombol 

Local Journalism Initiative 

[email protected]

The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) has released information on Correctional Service Canada (CSC) and how it continues to fail Indigenous Peoples. 

“The colonial justice system is broken,” said Kim Beaudin, the national vice-chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP). 

CAP is disappointed with a lack of progress in addressing the over-representation of Indigenous Peoples in the broken correctional services system – especially the traditional elders and Indigenous women. It also points to the lack of investment in healing lodges. 

“How they treat elders is it’s gone off the rails. We shouldn’t be treating our elders like that. They don’t hold our elders in a positive light. It’s just not good. They (our elders) should be revered,” Beaudin added.

Beaudin said that almost 200 elders in healing lodges are contracted through CSC, including healing lodges and prisons, and they should be protected and heard. He noted this protection doesn’t happen with their safety, mental health, and security, adding that some elders who didn’t agree with a guard or staff were poorly treated like inmates. 

On November 2, Dr. Ivan Zinger delivered remarks at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa. It was pointed out that the federal prison watchdog says there are still many Indigenous Peoples behind bars in Canada. Zinger’s annual report showed that many federal inmates are Indigenous women. In the news, it is stated that the country’s penitentiary system is “disturbingly and unconscionably Indigenized.”

For more information, read: https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/canadian-prisons-disturbingly-and-unconscionably-indigenized-corrections-watchdog-1.6628878. 

“The numbers have increased threefold, maybe even more, with respect to the news (regarding the federally incarcerated),” Beaudin said. “The federal government never took it seriously; they never do – the mass incarceration and continued incarceration rate, they never take it seriously.” 

Another topic that Beaudin mentioned is that most healing lodges are half-empty. “They make it so hard for Indigenous Peoples to meet the criteria of a healing lodge,” Beaudin said. 

He explained that most Indigenous who are supposed to be in minimum security or those who committed less serious crimes and are supposed to be in the healing lodges stay inside the prison for a long time— they never get a chance to come out and go to healing lodges.

“They’ve militarized the whole thing about healing lodges. That is crazy. It shouldn’t be like that.” Beaudin stated. 

The reason for the healing lodges being empty is also due to allocated budgets, he noted. In the news report, it is stated that the “total spending for Indigenous initiatives within Correctional Service Canada covering healing lodges and elders only amounts to $75 million annually, which is about three per cent of CSC’s total budget.” Beaudin said this is a very small amount. 

Another shocking realization that Beaudin pointed out is how these situations help build Canada’s economy. 

“They’re realizing that we can shove our Indigenous Peoples into these facilities, and we can hire more guards, more probation officers or bail officers, or social workers. It’s a prison economy from the backs of Indigenous Peoples.” Beaudin said. 

He pointed out that most Indigenous Peoples stay in prison for a long time until their time is up — or in most cases they remain there for a lifetime. The justice system doesn’t look at their case anymore. “They just stay there, and they’re basically forgotten about,” Beaudin said. 

“And that’s all based on racism, discrimination, systemic racism, that’s all built on that. That’s the foundation of why our people are rotting in there.” 

Beaudin hopes that people start taking this issue seriously. 

“Let us take care of our people,” he said.