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.  


  1. I like the quote that says “[t]oo many people learn bad things in prison and it becomes a way of life”. I agree with this statement because when we send children into the prisons when they do one bad thing, and they leave knowing tips and tricks behind even more. I know the intentions of the government are right, but I don’t think this is the way of going about this. They are learning from their new friends in jail about so many things that we should be teaching them not to do, or at least how to fix the behaviors that they have. Running jails can also be much more costly than alternatives to it. (Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission, (1999)

    There are two main reasons why I believe there are so many young Aboriginal people in jail. One of these reasons is that they are not learning how to behave like society wants them to behave because of the Residential Schools. Ever since Aboriginal people started going to Residential Schools, they stopped learning how to parent, which has created a snowball effect for all of the generations following. Instead of sending youth to jail after they have committed a crime, maybe we should start fixing the underlying problem and showing them what a real family should be like.

    The other reason why I believe the Aboriginal youth are the majority that are in prisons is because, like mentioned in this article, we are not using the kind of discipline that they know. We are pretty much abusing them by putting them in prison and not giving them a very good lifestyle in there. If we would have some other kind of discipline for them, such as community service, then I believe that would have more of an effect on the youth in jail rather than just throwing them in jail. If we want to correct their behaviors, we could even make them take a required course about how what they were doing is bad and where they can put their energy instead of into the delinquent behavior.

    This being said, I do believe that some people should not be back on the streets and doing community service. People who may be charged with murder should not be living back on the streets, but maybe there is a different option instead of grouping them together with others in jail. Although it may be more expensive, having a private prison may be possible, especially if less people will be put into jails. Also, making sure that there is some kind of program that they can go through to improve their behavior may also be beneficial.

  2. “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.” This quotation from Dr. Ouellete’s blog particularly caught my attention. I think that it is not so much the failure of the Canadian state that aboriginal youth are being imprisoned, but the failure comes on a smaller level. First, it is a failure of the individual that they end up in jail in the first place. Unfortunately we don’t all grow up in a stable environment and home, and this inequality has always been present in human society. Criminal activity is more present and alluring to people who grow up in broken homes and disadvantaged communities. However, ultimately, the individual is responsible for his/her actions. No one is forced to commit crimes and partake in criminal activity - unless the individual was forced into criminal activity with a gun to the face. People need to be held accountable for their actions, and blame should not be passed onto impersonal entities like the government. The government doesn't make people become criminals, bad choices do.

    Yet, we should strive to ensure that the environments that breed criminal activity are reformed. This way the temptation and the desire to commit crime will be lessened. My question is, are troubled communities in this country with high crime rates, going to wait for government intervention for reform? Cannot communities reform themselves without creating a police-state structure to enforce legal behaviour? If the solution to reform broken communities is more government intervention, then communities like Winnipeg’s north end are going to end up as a police-state. I think we are already on the way to that. When I’m in Winnipeg’s north end, I always notice the high-number of police cars patrolling the streets. The police presence, in Winnipeg’s north end is troubling. Again, I advocate for change through a vibrant community and individual responsibility. These two avenues are the most effective ways of reform; I can’t say the same for government involvement.