Canada Seeing a Rise in Over Representation of Indigenous Persons in Adult Provincial Custody

Joelle Brassard
By Joelle Brassard December 8, 2023 13:38

The overall rate of Indigenous persons being held in provincial custody is rising according to Stats Canada.  

Indigenous women are more overrepresented in provincial custody than Indigenous men. With Indigenous women being incarcerated at a rate 15.4 per cent higher than non-Indigenous women and Indigenous men are incarcerated at a rate 8.4 per cent higher than non-indigenous men. 

Former Kizhaay Anishinaabe Niin friendship coordinator at Can-Am Indian Friendship Center from 2019-2022 Brian Gray said due to the systemic racism of the environment in which they were raised, indigenous women can sometimes result to violence leading to criminal charges.  

“There’s been many cases of these woman being abused and used as sexual objects, especially the way they’re portrayed in the media for example with the over sexualized Halloween costumes.” said Gray. “In turn these women become violent due to their circumstances and that’s why I think there’s more representation of women. Men tend to get higher charges of two years plus a day, so they end up in the federal institutions.” 

Gray said there’s also a lack of indigenous based resources to help these women reclaim their identities. 

“A lot of us are struggling with mental and physical health issues due to a lot of these pressures and very few have quality resources to get help.” said Indigenous woman Irelynn Maloney. “As a result, they tend to fall into addiction or do things they don’t want to do in general to get by, so a lot of them end up in rough situations in order to survive.” 

Maloney also believes more resources are needed for indigenous women.  

“Particularly financial aid would really help indigenous woman due to the outrageous living conditions they experience especially in the grocery and general household necessities category.” said Maloney. 

Stats Canada also shows that indigenous men are most likely to experience custody with one in ten indigenous men ages 25 (the age group with highest incarceration rates in provincial custody) in the five provinces studied experienced incarceration during the period of April 1, 2019 to March 31, 2021.  

“I believe that indigenous men are likely to experience custody due to the racial discrimination that often plays a part in how our justice system is set up,” said Taylor Maloney, a non-binary indigenous person. “I believe this could be improved by involving more indigenous peoples in our justice system and having indigenous representatives that specialize in cases working indigenous men and women to help combat racial biases that come up.” 

Gray said the situation with young men stems from issues of intergenerational trauma. 

“The situation with young men stems again from intergenerational trauma and systemic racism that is founded in Canadian law.” said Gray. “Also the displacement of aboriginal children in CAS creates an environment where they’re more likely to engage in criminal activities.” 

Brain believes the way we can combat these issues is also with more programming. 

“How we can help combat this issue is simply more funding for aboriginal youth programming that is targeted towards the beliefs system of the old ways of life.” said Brain. “These programs help combat intergenerational trauma and is crucial in the developing who we are and the roles and responsibilities we have as indigenous men and youths that has been lost.” 

Overall, the sentiment is shared amongst indigenous community members that overrepresentation is a problem and that the problem could be solved with more programs and funding for indigenous peoples.

Joelle Brassard
By Joelle Brassard December 8, 2023 13:38

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