NDP at the UN: Advocates Condemn Mass Incarceration of Indigenous Women in Canada

NEW YORK – Panelists at this morning’s United Nations Convention on the Status of Women reiterated years of calls on the Canadian government to heed international and court direction, and immediately reform treatment of Indigenous women in Canada’s justice and corrections systems.

“Indigenous women make up 2% of Canada’s population, yet represent 38% of Canada’s female prison population. This grotesque imbalance is a condemnation of Canada’s justice system and jails,” said NDP Women’s Equality Critic Sheila Malcolmson. “18 of the 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are about justice system reform, virtually none of which have seen much progress. If the Prime Minister is committed to both reconciliation and making the lives of Indigenous women better he can do so by acting now.”

According to testimony at the Standing Committee on the Status of Women (FEWO), two actions the Trudeau government should have taken already are to end solitary confinement and to end mandatory minimum sentencing. The Native Women’s Association of Canada found Indigenous women in prison are more likely to be put in solitary confinement, and are in for longer than their non-Indigenous counterparts. Indigenous women offenders are especially affected by mandatory minimum sentencing because it separates them from their children.

“It is shocking that instead of moving forward with reform, the Liberal government appealed the BC Supreme Court ruling against solitary confinement, choosing to spend taxpayers’ money fighting the BC Civil Liberties Association in court instead of implementing reforms to help Indigenous women in prison,” added Malcolmson. “Mass incarceration of Indigenous women is shockingly inconsistent with the Canadian government’s repeated promises of support for Indigenous people and support for women. They need to correct course and act immediately.”

It’s time for Canada to help Indigenous offenders, women, and those with mental health issues. Canada should lead, not fight the court’s rulings against solitary confinement, and this government should lead in the reform of treatment of Indigenous women in Canada’s justice and corrections systems.