Nearly half of youth incarcerated are Indigenous

This past weekend I was quoted in an article in the Canadian Press responding to this report “Adult and youth correctional statistics in Canada, 2016/2017”. And even though the report focuses on overall incarceration stats going down  in Canada, the main media narrative has been that the numbers of Indigenous people incarcerated is increasing. In my work with young people I have been in many court rooms and have connected with many youth as they exit the justice system. My main points were:

  • “I see Indigenous and non-Indigenous people literally doing the exact same crime and not experiencing the same amount of jail time, probation, etc.”
  • There is a cycle of institutionalizing Indigenous kids that starts with children being taken into care. They are assigned a worker, curfews and strict rules. When they age out of CFS, they graduate to the justice system. This cycle frustrates me when so many influential justice system folks are talking about reconciliation  but not implementing systems changes.
  • We as a society have to get better at recognizing the good things so youth can see themselves as successful, helpers or leaders instead of only reinforcing the negative

However what I was not able to accomplish was share what I think needs to happen to improve the justice system in Canada. Here are 3 ideas that come directly from the TRC Calls to Action:

  • eliminate barriers to the creation of additional Aboriginal healing lodges within the federal correctional system (TRC-35)
  • ensure that lawyers receive appropriate cultural competency training, which includes the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human
    rights, and anti-racism (TRC-27)
  • commit to eliminating the over representation of Aboriginal people in custody over
    the next decade, and to issue detailed annual reports
    that monitor and evaluate progress in doing so (TRC-30)
  • Read all Justice Calls to Action from the TRC here (25-42)

More posts on this topic will be coming in the future! In the meantime, Check out 6 things allies can do to support Indigenous youth!


My comments appeared in many places including: Globe & Mail / CBC Manitoba / Winnipeg Sun / Times Colonist (Western Canada)

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