Canada’s prison watchdog disturbed by ‘Indigenization’ of correctional system

The proportion of Indigenous people in federal custody has hit a record high of more than 30 per cent due to disturbing and entrenched imbalances, Canada’s prison ombudsman warned Tuesday.

The numbers are even more troubling for Indigenous women, who account for 42 per cent of the female prison population, correctional investigator Ivan Zinger said.

The system seems unresponsive to the needs, histories and social realities behind high rates of Indigenous offending, Zinger said in a statement calling for the Correctional Service of Canada to do more to resolve the spiralling problem.

At the current pace, within three years one in every three federal inmates will be Indigenous, even though Indigenous people comprise only five per cent of the Canadian population, Zinger said.

“The Indigenization of Canada’s prison population is nothing short of a national travesty.”

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, the cabinet member responsible for federal corrections, said he was “very concerned” about the numbers and stressed the Liberal government was “absolutely committed” to dealing with the underlying causes.

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