‘Urgent’ Creation of Deputy Commissioner of Indigenous Corrections: Mendicino

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The extent of Indigenous incarceration in Canada and the experience of inmates in federal penitentiaries has been highlighted in recent weeks after The Globe and Mail reported that Indigenous women made up, for the first time, half of the female population in prison.Paul Daly/The Canadian Press

The creation of a deputy commissioner of Indigenous corrections is long overdue, said Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, who ordered the Correctional Service of Canada to establish the position amid systemic racism and high rates of Aboriginal incarceration in federal prisons.

In a letter to CSC Commissioner Anne Kelly, Mr Mendicino said his tenure with the agency was a direct response to a call for justice from the National Inquiry into Missing Indigenous Women and Girls. and murdered (MMIWG).

In the letter, Mendicino said the role “will ensure appropriate attention and accountability for Indigenous issues in the corrections system, address the overrepresentation of Indigenous offenders (particularly women), and help CSC to implement the many other calls for justice within their jurisdiction.”

The extent of Indigenous incarceration in Canada and the experience of inmates in federal penitentiaries has been highlighted in recent weeks after The Globe and Mail reported that Indigenous women made up, for the first time, half of the female population in prison. Correctional Investigator Ivan Zinger called the news “shocking and shameful”.

Additionally, the federal Auditor General on Tuesday released findings on systemic barriers at CSC, including that a majority of offenders were released on parole before the end of their sentence, but Indigenous and Black offenders remained in custody. longer and at higher levels of Security.

In a recent interview, Mendicino said the role of deputy commissioner must be created to accelerate needed reforms within the federal corrections system, including reducing the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples. He also said those who are already in the system must be treated in a manner consistent with the principles of reconciliation.

“To put it bluntly, it is unacceptable that there is such a shocking overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples compared to their percentage of the general population,” he said, describing the problem as a stubborn byproduct of inequalities. systems that have plagued justice. system for too long.

“For me, this work is urgent. It’s been long overdue. »

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Mr. Mendicino said he expects CSC to get on track to fulfill its new mandate. In his directive, the minister called, among other measures, for the agency to support the government’s work to address systemic racism and the overrepresentation of black and racialized Canadians and Indigenous peoples in the justice system.

Marion Buller, who was appointed the first female First Nations judge in British Columbia in 1994 and served as chief commissioner of the MMIWG, said she also hopes the CSC commissioner will make the appointment of a deputy Commissioner a high priority.

Dr. Zinger previously said the call for a deputy commissioner for Indigenous corrections was made more than a decade ago. He also offered blunt criticism of federal corrections while noting that the number of Aboriginal people sentenced by the federal government has been steadily increasing for decades.

After the release of the Auditor General’s report on Tuesday, Dr Zinger told the Globe that Mr Mendicino and his department should expressly lead the prison agency and manage it to ensure there is reform, given his poor performance in tackling systemic barriers. .

A CSC spokeswoman, Esther Mailhot, said the agency is in the process of staffing the deputy commissioner for Indigenous corrections. She said this will be an important new position to support relations with Indigenous peoples and will report directly to the Commissioner. She also said it would help ongoing work in continuing programs and operations.

The disproportionate overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system is something CSC takes seriously, Mailhot said. She added that this is a complex issue that requires collaboration, including with various levels of government and Indigenous communities.

With reporting by Tom Cardoso and Patrick White in Toronto

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