Saturday, 30 March 2013

Corrections Canada and the Coming Tsunami of Youth in Prison

Here is an interview I did with Radio-Canada journalist Claudine Richard-Beaudoin about the terrible state of Canadian prisons and the over representation of Aboriginal peoples in that system.  HTTP://

March 8th, 2013

Howard Saper, the Correctional Investigator tabled a report (7 March 2013) with the Canadian Parliament. The report, entitled Spirit Matters:  Aboriginal People and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, examines the implementation of Sections 81 and 84 provisions of the CCRA.  Section 81 allows the Minister of Public Safety to enter into agreements to transfer care and custody of an Aboriginal offender who would otherwise be held in a federal penitentiary to an Aboriginal community facility.  Section 84 provides for Aboriginal communities to be involved in the release of an Aboriginal offender returning to their community. Nothing in the report is new except that the tough on crime approach may not be working. I see the report as indicating that we are creating the potential of a tsunami of under privileged young people (Aboriginal) who will eventually be sent to Canadian prisons. We should remember that this is the youngest population in Canada. Perhaps it is time to consider more traditional models of being more intelligent on crime. While no one likes criminals, eventually a criminal has the right to live in society. It should be the task of Corrections Canada to ensure that people when they leave prison have the skills to make a life for themselves on the outside. Too many people learn bad things in prison and it becomes a way of life. Many young men in the Aboriginal community feel that they are destined for the Criminal courts. How can we prevent young people from becoming involved in the system. We are seeing that too many institutional systems are failing too many of our fellow citizens. The education system is not meeting the needs of children and in the case of Aboriginal peoples they have schools which are under funded by 30-40%. The Child and Family services are also failing our youngest citizens. When we see the cases like Phoenix Sinclairs’ which are in my mind the tip of the iceberg, we must be concerned. Children have a destiny in life and positive destiny, but we are the adult can affect that destiny and reduce the potential for the success of all out children. 

While many see underprivileged children as not being their children, they still have value. We often ask what we can do. These children will exist along side us in society. We will see them in the streets, in supermarkets, on the bus and potentially in our cities. While Howard Sapers said he could not comment on the processes that go on outside of correction facilities I can and I see a direct correlation. My quality of life is affected by the quality of life of all children in Canada. Every person who is in prison is a failure of the Canadian state to ensure that all citizens’ Human Rights have been respected and they have been given the options to make good personal choices in life. No man is an Island and we cannot shut ourselves away from the world. By being tough on crime, we must be smart and eradicate crime before it starts. Childhood poverty should be eliminated and we will see cost savings in our prisons and improvements to the Canadian politic in one generation.  

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

A Life of Resilience: The Example of Elder Ralph Paul

Ralph Paul taken from
This week it is a two part interview with the very active and inspiring Elder Ralph Paul from English River First Nation. Over the course of 50 minutes we discuss his life from when at age 6 he was sent to residential school in Saskatchewan to his later years as a chief for his community. After a very difficult time away from his mother, father and family at Residential school he was eventually chosen to be one of the first Indians to attend a white school in the Battleford area. A Catholic priest believed in his abilities and felt further education would be profitable to him. Ultimately he graduated and was offered the chance to enter teachers college when he earned a one year teaching certificate and so began a very long career. During that time there were not a lot of options available for young men, teacher, priest, or book keeper, so Ralph felt lucky. Ralph has worked in schools in Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Eventually in 1973 he was working in Thompson as a school counsellor. He was advising children to get an education yet he did not have much of an education. In 1974 he enrolled at the University of Manitoba for a Bac of Ed degree. He was one of only 13 Indian students.

He also married to a lovely Scottish lady and had two children and both have been very successful in their chosen careers. He learned form his wife how to care and love children because it was not something that you would have learned in Residential school. He in time became the best father he could. The question is why some people are successful even after the horrors of the residential school era. Why do some have an inner resilience and have been able to become successful. We discussed marital relationships and how a man and woman should not discuss politics, but focus on loving each other.

Eventually he moved back to his reservation after he had retired in early 2000s. After 8 years near the community he was elected chief. A position he held for 4 years before taking another break. There was along discussion about politics, chief, financing, funding, per diems, treaties and other issues that have been very hot in the media with a lot of misnomers and misunderstanding. Ralph felt it is important that a chief speak the truth and understand the needs of the people he represents. It is not a top down approach, but consultation and involving people in the governance and running of the reserve.

He told a number of stories about how the elders felt that are the signing of the treaties it would take 7 generation for the Dene people to surpass the Moonyas people of
. He feels we are in the 6 generation and it will be his grandchildren and my children who will be the most successful and truly rise to their full potential.
To Learn More (Interview and Podcast Part I)
To Learn more (Interview and Podcast Part II)