Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission
THIRD QUARTERLY REPORT
SEPTEMBER 30, 2000
This Report covers the period July 1, 2000 to September 30, 2000. In that period the Commission,
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission was established by the Manitoba Government on November 29, 1999, to be:
The Commissioners are Wendy Whitecloud and Paul Chartrand. Elders are Eva McKay and Doris Young.
The Commission views its tasks as:
In carrying out its work, the Commission is required to keep in mind the Framework Agreement, entered into between Canada and First Nations and the Reports of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.
Further information on the Commission, including its terms of reference, first and second quarterly reports can be found at the Commissions website at www.ajic.mb.ca.
The Commission made a recommendation concerning probation services on September 20, 2000. That recommendation is attached as Schedule 1.
The Commission continued to work in the priority areas it had established through consultation with Manitobans. Those priority areas are:
Continuing Consultations: TOP
During the last quarter the Commission or Commission staff met with the following organizations or persons:
Other Activities TOP
Commissioner Chartrand and Commission staff visited the communities of Nelson House and Oxford House where they observed the MKO Northern Justice Strategy in action. In Nelson House the Commission observed community justice in the form of a sentencing circle. In Oxford House the Commission observed the early stages of a community justice program, both the effort required and the problems encountered in setting up a program. The Commission also viewed the RCMP holding facility in Thompson and talked to staff on site. Commission staff observed circuit court in St. Theresa Point.
The Commission also continued its work in the following areas:
The Commission has six months remaining in its mandate, which ends on March 31, 2001. The Commission will focus the rest of its mandate on making recommendations, and accordingly it is useful to outline its intended approach. As part of its ongoing consultation program, the Commission welcomes and encourages comments on the views outlined below.
It is important to keep the extent of the Commissions mandate in mind as work progresses. The Commission has been asked to recommend priority areas for action that are within the control of the Manitoba Government. These recommendations must also be able to be implemented within existing Canadian law. While there is much work that can be done in areas that are within Manitobas control, it is also important to note that it is the Federal Government that has assumed responsibility for funding the delivery of most services, such as health care, education, housing and other social services on First Nations communities. In addition, under the Canadian Constitution, it is Federal Government that is responsible for criminal law, specifically the Criminal Code and the Young Offenders Act.
It is also important to appreciate that the Commission has been asked to make recommendations on priorities. In this area, the Commission views its task as providing advice on how to spend limited funds from the Provincial Treasury. In other words, a dollar spent in one area is a dollar not available in another. The wise choice of priorities, is therefore, extremely important.
In considering both priorities and substantive recommendations, it is useful to outline the demographics of the Aboriginal community in Manitoba. There are 128,685 persons who identified themselves as Aboriginal or Status Indian in the 1996 census out of a total Canadian Aboriginal population of 799,010. These numbers are thought to understate the number of Aboriginal people, which is estimated to be about 40% larger, as some First Nations did not participate in the census.
According to the census data, 11.7% of Manitobas population identified itself as Aboriginal. Manitoba and Saskatchewan have more than double the percentage of Aboriginal population of any other province. 62.5% of the Aboriginal population of Manitoba live off reserve. The Aboriginal population is much younger than the general population. 37.4% of the Aboriginal population of Manitoba was between the ages of 0 14 as of 1996, versus approximately 21% of the non-Aboriginal population. Winnipeg has the largest Aboriginal population of any city of Canada at 45,750 followed by Edmonton at 32,825 and Vancouver at 31,140.
In general, the 1996 census shows Aboriginal people to be younger than the general population, to have lower participation rates in the labour force, over double the unemployment rate, lower education levels, and more frequent changes in dwellings. According to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, Aboriginal people in general have poorer housing than the non-Aboriginal population.
The Commission in its June quarterly report commented on the increasing over-representing of Aboriginal people in prisons in Manitoba. The Commission asked the Corrections Division of Manitoba Justice to do a one-day snapshot of offenders in prison and on probation. The percentage of Aboriginal people in adult and youth prisons and on probation on September 6, 2000 was,
In Custody (Sentenced and Unsentenced)
As noted above, according to the 1996 census, the Aboriginal percentage of the total population of Manitoba was 11.7%. While this percentage may be understated, for the reasons noted, it can be seen that Aboriginal people form a far larger percentage of the inmate and probation population than they do of the general population of Manitoba.
Over-representation has been an issue debated for over 30 years and yet has progressively worsened. There have been task forces and inquiries in Manitoba, Alberta, and Saskatchewan that examined this issue. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and the Law Reform Commission of Canada also addressed the issue. All of these reports noted that the problem would not be solved in the justice system alone. Long lasting solutions require addressing the circumstances of material disadvantage facing Aboriginal people compared to the rest of the population.
The Commission, through its consultation with Aboriginal people, government officials, outside experts and its own research has concluded that the solution to the over-representation of Aboriginal people in the justice system will come, over the long term, from within and without the justice system.
The Commissions Approach TOP
A theme that has run through all of the Commissions consultations has been the advice, from Aboriginal people individually, Aboriginal organizations and non-Aboriginal people, to focus on children, youth and the family. This advice is supported by the Commissions research. The Commission referred to this theme in its second quarterly report but because of its importance, we return to it once again.
The Canadian National Crime Prevention Centre, after exhaustive research, prepared policy frameworks to address crime prevention for children aged 0 12 and youth aged 12 18. In the 0 12 framework, Dr. Richard Tremblay is quoted as stating,
The same document also notes that,
Elliot Curry, a noted American criminologist, commenting on the explosion of the size of the prison population in the United States and the disproportionate impact it has had on African Americans, comments:
Adopting Currys analysis to make recommendations that would lesson the over-representation of African Americans in US prisons, other criminologists, William Lyons and Stuart Scheingold note that:
The Manitoba Government seems to agree. When announcing the Healthy Child Initiative the Minister of Family Services said:
In the same announcement the Minister of Education emphasized that research shows that effective early childhood programs are a sound investment. He noted that these programs lead to enormous economic benefit such as improved graduation rates, decreased crime among youth and low reliance on social assistance. He said:
Individuals and organizations that met with the Commission supported these conclusions. The Commission, as it moves forward to advise government on implementation priorities will lean toward recommendations that would:
While the Manitoba Government, in the current policy context, and Aboriginal service delivery organizations play a key role in this area in the off reserve delivery of services, it is the First Nations and Federal Government that will need to take the lead role on reserve.
Early intervention and crime prevention are important to help reduce involvement with the justice system. However, it is also important to ensure that the justice system is equitable in its treatment of Aboriginal people. It is also important, if the justice system is to be effective, that it enjoy the support and confidence of the people it is designed to serve. As it continues to consult, review and make recommendations on implementation of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry recommendations, the Commission aims to focus on recommendations that would:
In summary, the Commission believes that, in order to reduce the number of Aboriginal people involved with the justice system,
The Commission intends to make recommendations in these areas in the coming months.
Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission
Recommendation on Probation ServicesTOP
The Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission was established by Order-in-Council 459, November 24, 1999, to advise the government on methods of implementing recommendations of the Report of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry (1991) for which the Province of Manitoba is responsible and accountable.
The Commission is to provide status reports and implementation recommendations on a quarterly basis but is also authorized to make any particular recommendations when appropriate.
The Recommendations of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry dealing with probations were:
The Commission has been advised that Aboriginal organizations are interested in providing probation services to Aboriginal people and that the Government of Manitoba is also open to developing a process that would result in probation services for Aboriginal people being provided, primarily by Aboriginal probation officers.
The Commission agrees with the findings of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry that for probation services to be effective they should be provided by individuals who are familiar with the community, understand the circumstances of the accused and have the resources and training needed to properly discharge their responsibilities. To this end, the Commission recommends that:
The Government of Manitoba consult with Aboriginal organizations with a view to creating regional, Aboriginal controlled probation services to serve Aboriginal communities, and
The Government of Manitoba seek to increase significantly the number of Aboriginal probation officers so that probation services to Aboriginal offenders are delivered primarily by Aboriginal probation officers.
The Commission has been advised and believes that enhanced Aboriginal participation in probation services will assist in implementing a community justice approach which can more effectively manage community sanctions for those offenders for which such sanctions are appropriate and assist in reintegrating offenders that have been incarcerated. This will also reduce the prospect of probationers offending again.
The Commission has also heard during its consultations, presentations that support the findings of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry that it is important that probation orders be related directly to the circumstances of the offence and the offender, that conditions be such that they can be realistically adhered to by the probationer and that the personnel and resources be in place to properly supervise the probation order. The Commission believes that both of the above recommendations will assist these goals.
The Commission will continue its work in this area and may have further recommendations in the future.
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