Canadian aboriginals1 are more likely to serve out the majority of their prison sentence, according to a recent report. The CBC’s article on the report notes that “[s]truggles to secure housing, an inmate’s criminal record and high caseloads for legal aid lawyers all contribute to longer wait times for release of aboriginal inmates in federal prisons.” If that smells like a systemic problem. it’s because it is.
Across Canada, aboriginals make up 23% of the federal prison population while only constituting 4% of the general population. Here in Manitoba, a shocking 54% of our federal prisoners are aboriginal. But what’s truly staggering is that the aboriginal prison populace increased by 40% between 2001 and 2011. Things are not only really bad, they’re getting worse.
And none of this even touches on other markers of injustice towards aboriginals in Canada. There’s Shoal Lake 40—the source of Winnipeg’s drinking water—and its 17 year long boil water advisory. And the astronomically higher rates of child apprehension by Child and Family Services. And the horrific legacy of residential schools, the last of which was closed in only 1996. And our Prime Minister saying that Canada has “no history of colonialism.” And how there are so many mostly-ignored missing and murdered indigenous women. And then there’s all of the shit that I don’t know as a settler, because we try not talk about these things, since Canadians are just so nice, aren’t we?
And besides, what could we even do about such a hopeless state of affairs? It’s not like a Truth and Reconciliation Commission recently made something like 94 concrete recommendations. Nope. Nothing we can do.
- A catch-all term for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples. ↩