February 19th, 2021
MP MacGregor Calls for Urgent Action to Address Indigenous Incarceration Rates
Letter to Canada's Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Dear Minister Blair,
I am writing today to bring attention to the untenable situation regarding indigenous incarceration rates in Canada.
As I am sure you are aware, more than 30% of inmates in Canadian prisons are Indigenous – even though aboriginal people make up just 5% of our country’s population. Moreover, since 2010, the Indigenous population in Canadian prisons has grown by nearly 44%. The numbers, unfortunately, are even more troubling for Indigenous women, who now account for 42% of the women inmate population.
Last year, in the Correctional Investigator Annual Report, the Correctional Investigator of Canada, Dr. Ivan Zinger, wrote:
It is not acceptable that Indigenous people in this country experience incarceration rates that are six to seven times higher than the national average. Bold and urgent action is required to address one of Canada’s most persistent and pressing human rights issues.
I wholeheartedly mirror these sentiments.
I have attached for your reference a policy brief submitted to my office by the Cowichan Intercultural Society’s Dr. Charuka Maheswaran. In it, Dr. Maheswaran highlights many of the points that Dr. Zinger details in his 2020 annual report, while bringing attention to many specific issues facing my province of BC.
Dr. Maheswaran’s policy brief outlines several suggestions for improving the current incarceration rates of Canada’s Indigenous peoples, such as increased training so that that police officers are recruited, trained and expected to be of an equivalent educational standard to other societal service providers, such as teachers and nurses. The policy brief also details the over-representation of HIV infection and incarceration among Indigenous women in Canada.
Minister, I think we can both agree that the aforementioned incarceration rates for Canada’s Indigenous peoples are discomfiting and unsustainable. In honour of your Leader’s 2016 commitment to a renewed nation-to-nation relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples, I ask that you allocate the resources required to address the issue of systemic racism in Canada’s law enforcement and corrections systems, and ensure that all Canadians are able to achieve their full potential.
I thank you for your attention to this matter and will look forward to your reply.
Alistair MacGregor, MP