On the first point, on the supplementary estimates, it would be quite probable to discuss that possibility at our subcommittee meeting, which is planned for Tuesday of next week, at 10 a.m. I believe. This is certainly quite possible.
You will know that the committee did adopt a work plan, which did not include the review of those supplementary estimates. However, you will also know that in the course of the consideration of those estimates, if the committee chooses not to consider them, they're deemed to be adopted and approved. We'll carry on and so on. We can discuss that at subcommittee.
On the question of the utilization of members' special points for committee travel, we did discuss that. It was the feeling that all of the committee should travel, and that, in order to stay below the $100,000 cap in respect to committee travel, it would have been necessary to require the committee to use their special points. Had we not pursued that course, it would have been much more expensive, approximately 40% more than what the cost of travel was. However, we take that point into consideration.
There is no future travel planned at the moment, but when we pursue the possibility of travel in the future, this is something that we can consider at committee and choose the course that we feel is the most appropriate.
I have Mr. Bagnell on this point as well, and Madam Crowder.
Go ahead, Mr. Bagnell.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thanks for the invitation to appear before this committee once again, and thank you for acknowledging the importance of reviewing the situation of aboriginal peoples in federal custody.
In the course of my remarks, I'll speak to issues pertaining to the care, treatment, and custody of federally sentenced aboriginal offenders from the point of view of drawing comparisons between aboriginal and non-aboriginal offenders.
The Office of the Correctional Investigator's executive director and general counsel, Dr. Ivan Zinger, will take you through some of the key findings of a recent progress report on aboriginal corrections released by my office just two weeks ago.
I'm aware that the treatment of federally sentenced aboriginal women is of particular interest to the committee at this point. I'll try to provide some context to help you better understand their issues in the course of my remarks today.
Over the years, my office has issued a series of reports and recommendations regarding the treatment of aboriginal offenders under federal sentence. In fact, the very first annual report released by the Office of the Correctional Investigator more than 35 years ago documented instances of systemic discrimination against federally sentenced aboriginal offenders. Unfortunately, many of our recommendations made since then have gone unheeded or only partially addressed, or the response to them has not yielded the intended result.
As members may be aware, my office released a progress report on federal aboriginal corrections on November 13, 2009. I believe the report has been circulated to the committee members. The report is entitled “Good Intentions, Disappointing Results: A Progress Report on Federal Aboriginal Corrections”. It was commissioned by my office and independently authored by Michelle Mann, whose previous work on aboriginal issues may be familiar to some committee members. The title refers to the fact that despite numerous well-intentioned plans, strategies, and commitments by the Correctional Service of Canada, the CSC, to address the documented gaps in correctional outcomes between aboriginal and non-aboriginal offenders, the actual results achieved to date have been nothing short of disappointing. The gap as measured by key correctional indicators is growing wider over time, not narrowing, despite the good intentions and the hard work of Canada's correctional authority.
It's important to note that the “Good Intentions” report looked only at what the Correctional Service had identified for itself as priorities. The commitments studied are those made by the service to Parliament, to the Treasury Board, and to Canadians in general. We purposely only considered progress or the lack of it against the stated intentions of the service. While there have been some positive developments and progress, the good news is limited.
I will ask Dr. Zinger to elaborate.
Mr. Chairman, on nearly every indicator, the Good Intentions report notes that correctional outcomes for Aboriginal offenders continue to lag significantly behind those of non-Aboriginal offenders.
Here are a few of the trends we have seen with regard to Aboriginal offenders: they tend to be released after having served a longer portion of their sentence; they are over-represented in segregated populations; they are often held in custody to warrant expiry; they are classified as higher risk and higher need; they are more likely to re-offend and have their conditional release revoked.
Aboriginal people have been disproportionately over-represented in federal correctional populations for a very long time. The problem is not new. However, what is new is the disturbing trend that rates of over-representation are getting worse, not better, over time. Aboriginal people now comprise 20% of the total federal offender population. That statistic translates into approximately 2,600 Aboriginal people incarcerated on any given day, in a federal penitentiary.
Statistically, one in five new admissions to a federal correctional facility is a person of Aboriginal descent. Among women offenders, the over-representation rate is even more dramatic — one in three federally sentenced women is of Aboriginal origin. The Aboriginal rate of incarceration is now approaching nine times the national average. Younger demographics for Aboriginal peoples suggest that disproportionate rates of incarceration will continue well into the next decade.
The geography of this over-representation is also skewed. In the Prairies' region of the Correctional Service of Canada, a region which incorporates the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta as well as the Northwest Territories and a portion of Northern Ontario, 64% of the current inmate population is Aboriginal. Visit any penitentiary in the Prairie provinces of Canada and you will witness the reality of over-representation first-hand.
In terms of personal characteristics, Aboriginal offenders under federal sentence tend to be: younger — with a median age of 27 years —; incarcerated for more violent offences; have much higher needs relating to employment and education; and have backgrounds of domestic, physical and/or substance abuse.
The vast majority of Aboriginal offenders in the system today are incarcerated in either medium or maximum security institutions. Aboriginal women offenders are grossly over-represented at maximum security. The Committee may be interested in knowing that the most severe crowding, including most of the double-bunking, is in medium security prisons, and that maximum security institutions have the most limited access to correctional programs.
The classification of aboriginal offenders has been a long-standing concern for my office, and for very good reason. It's disturbing that the most common form of release for an aboriginal offender from a federal penitentiary is statutory release. As the “Good Intentions” report attests: “The combination of over-classification and lack of Aboriginal programming illustrates how systemic barriers can hinder timely and effective offender reintegration.”
I would be the first to acknowledge that many of the factors contributing to the excessively high rates of aboriginal incarceration—poverty, social exclusion, substance abuse, discrimination—go well beyond the capacity of the correctional service to address in isolation. I am well aware that the federal correctional authority does not have control over the number of federally sentenced offenders. Nevertheless, the report states that the Correctional Service of Canada has the jurisdiction and the obligation, statutory and constitutional, to manage sentences in a culturally responsive manner. On this point the federal correctional service has fallen short, with negative consequences for aboriginal offenders and their communities.
Under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the legislation governing federal corrections, there are special provisions meant to give expression to the unique social and cultural circumstances of aboriginal offenders. Upon examination, we found a limited use of these legislative provisions designed to enhance aboriginal reintegration. Instead, we found an under-utilization of healing lodges, a chronic shortage of elders and dedicated aboriginal program delivery officers, inconsistent access to aboriginal programming, lack of an aboriginal anti-gang management and intervention strategy, lack of an aboriginal-sensitive classification instrument, absence of publicly available statistical evidence indicating progress or improvement in managing aboriginal offenders, and a lack of capacity to address the unique social and historical circumstances contributing to aboriginal offending.
Despite explicit intervention and direction from the courts in the Gladue decision, there is little sustained, concrete evidence suggesting that Canada's correctional service adequately addresses the history of dislocation, disadvantage, and discrimination that aboriginal people continue to experience when making decisions that significantly affect retained rights and liberties such as segregation placement, involuntary transfers, case preparation, and penitentiary security classification.
The situation for aboriginal people under federal sentence is not acceptable. In my view, the lack of sustained progress in improving outcomes for aboriginal offenders needs to be met by dedicated, focused, and accountable leadership within the Correctional Service of Canada. This is why my one single recommendation, coming as a result of the “Good Intentions” report, was a renewed call for the appointment of a deputy commissioner for aboriginal corrections.
While I would not normally see the addition of a senior bureaucrat as a solution to an operational impasse, in this case I am convinced that the service requires an executive with the authority to get things done and be accountable when there are questions about progress. There are executives sitting at the decision-making table focusing attention on women, health care, and human resources. Why not have the same focused attention and accountability for aboriginal corrections?
Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you and the committee for inviting us. We look forward to your questions.
Good morning to each of you.
First of all, I want to thank you for your work. This is very important work. While statistics sometimes can tell us part of the picture, we're talking about people's lives here, the lives of many aboriginal people and their families, and their communities. We can never take away the human element that this represents.
It is astounding that we haven't seen progress when the reports have been coming out, as you tell us, for about 35 years. You say there is systemic discrimination. We haven't seen, with all of the recommendations, with all of the good intentions....
As a lot of people say, we know that the road...somewhere....is paved with good intentions. I'm sure for many aboriginal people, given this report, I mean, they're there.
If it's systemic discrimination, the system itself is flawed. Does the introduction of a program, or a series of programs, change that? Or are we looking at the architecture itself of the Correctional Service of Canada that has to be changed?
I know you made one very strong recommendation about the architecture itself, its structures, about having the deputy commissioner for aboriginal corrections, which has been rejected by the Correctional Service of Canada in the past.
I'm asking if the programs themselves can change it. Is it a fundamental issue of changing the architecture within the Correctional Service of Canada?
You know, it is unacceptable in Canadian society that one in five incarcerated people are aboriginal people; worse for women. It is unbelievable.
I read in your report that there's a bias in the classification system that says aboriginal people will go into medium and maximum security prisons more often than non-aboriginal people. When you get into those institutions, there's less programming so that people can reintegrate back into the communities. At the end of the day, we're not supposed to put people in prison and throw away the key. They're supposed to do their time in accordance with the law and the sentences that were handed down, but our job is to make sure that we have healing, that we have people reintegrated into their communities so that they become contributors to their communities. It's important in aboriginal communities as well as anywhere else in the country.
Programs are important, I know, but programs by themselves, if there is systemic discrimination, I personally would have some concerns about. Is it that we must change the architecture and the structure of CSC?
I wish to thank you for being here today. I much appreciate what you are telling us. I am choosing my words carefully, but my only thought is that I am horrified. Obviously, I am not horrified by the work that you do. In my opinion, you are doing an extraordinary job. This is why I will be asking that we invite the to come and discuss the situation of Aboriginals in custody. We must talk to the right people.
It is with great respect that I say that the observations contained in your report are horrifying. I will just read one. I do not know if you have already seen this lovely little book, but I imagine that the answer is yes. This is the annual report for 2008-09 of the Office of the Correctional Investigator. We see here that the incarceration rate for Aboriginals has gone from 815 per 100,000 in 2001-02, to 983 per 100,000 in 2005-06.
I hope that Mr. Head is listening, because I would like to ask a question. I would like to know where we are at now. We must be approaching 1,000 Aboriginals in jail per 100,000 . That is unbelievable. Not only is it unbelievable, but it is nine times the rate for non-Aboriginals. Your observations leave me dumbfounded. I visited a penitentiary in Manitoba and one in Saskatchewan. It is true that virtually all of the residents are Aboriginals. Of course, there are a few Whites, but not many compared with the number of Aboriginals.
If you are asked to appear before the Committee next year, the situation will be the same. Things will not have improved. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Ms. Mann. In our penitentiaries, individuals are classified. You deal only with penitentiaries; provincial prisons do not come under your authority. From the very beginning, the classification of inmates has been poorly done. We find ourselves with an over-population or an over-representation of prisoners in isolation.
I have but one question to ask you. What do you expect from us, apart from calling upon the to appear before the Committee? What could we do to assist you?
Thank you for coming before the committee.
I'll start with two questions, and if I have time I'll go to the third. The two questions are linked.
In recommendation 12 of your report, you indicated that the Minister of Public Safety should immediately direct the CSC to appoint a deputy commissioner for aboriginal corrections. Somewhat linked to that is your recommendation 13, that the deputy commissioner for women should have full and direct line accountability, and therefore accountability for all matters concerning federally sentenced women.
In the department's response they talk about the aboriginal initiatives directorate, and see this as being a sufficient answer to dealing with the challenges facing the aboriginal population within the prisons. Linked to that, I believe you also raised the issues around reporting, and one of the ways we know there have been changes is that there's sufficient reporting. In the department's response they also talked about strengthened accountability and a template for results reporting and monitoring that will identify concrete actions to be taken, and specific accountability.
I'd like you to address the department's response to your recommendations, both on the appointment of the commissioner and the line authority for women, and on the statistical aspect of it, and whether their action, in your view, is sufficient to address the issues you've raised.
The Correctional Service of Canada has an executive committee, which is really the decision-making body. I believe the commissioner will be providing testimony to the committee later on today, and I think he will be in a very good position to explain how that decision-making body works.
My concern is that for the last decade we've seen very good plans, lots of analysis, strategies put in place, and programs being developed with the current governance model--that is, with having the primary responsibility for aboriginal corrections housed within the portfolio of responsibilities of the senior deputy commissioner, with a DG-level position, lower within the hierarchy of the service, providing support.
That governance structure, in my opinion, has not provided the results that would have been hoped for with the huge investment of time and money that has taken place, which is why we're saying that to expect different results from the same structure doesn't make a lot of sense. It would be time to change that.
I would make similar observations in terms of the deputy commissioner for women, a position created in response to an incident at the Kingston Penitentiary that gave rise to the Arbour inquiry. Madam Justice Arbour made the recommendation that a separate stream for women's corrections be created, headed by a deputy commissioner who had authority over purpose-built, specific women's correctional centres. The position of deputy commissioner for women was created, those purpose-built correctional centres have been created, and those are both positive steps, but the bridge between the two is missing. That deputy commissioner position does not have direct authority and only provides a policy support function.
There are so many reasons why I believe that has been inappropriate. It would far exceed the remainder of our seven minutes for me to enumerate them. They are well documented, not just in our reports but in several reports that have been made on this point.
Thank you to the witnesses.
I'm going to say, from the outset, that the fundamental role of this committee is to discuss, help shape, and set policy to make sure that first nations and Inuit people have the best opportunities available for them to fulfill and make choices and decisions around lifestyle that do not lead to situations that would give rise to incarceration. I think that's an important thing that was echoed by the committee chair the last time you were here. Perhaps I might push it a little bit farther to say that if there's value in this discussion in terms of its appropriateness here at this particular committee, it may be to look at the conditions and issues in the communities for offenders who are returning to their communities that we focus on.
I might also add, through you, Mr. Chair, that I think it's a little bit unfortunate that the critic for the NDP was not available for our expansive tour across the north to see some of the exciting things that are going on, to that end, in those communities. There are still challenges.
I'm going to get to a couple of questions that go to your report, and I'm going to refer to some of the discussion that occurred back in 2007. My frame of reference is that I'm not unfamiliar with this. I have spent a considerable amount of time involved in the Indian residential schools process. I was a signatory to that agreement. Subsequent to that, I acted as legal counsel on behalf of a number of people in that process, including working in the Kingston Penitentiary with a number of offenders who were directly or indirectly affected by the Indian residential schools.
Mr. Saper, in your speech today you talked about the ongoing matter of discrimination. I want to talk about that discrimination, building on what my colleague tried to develop earlier.
Is it because aboriginals are not being treated equitably, or is equitable treatment itself the problem? I mean, I've been in a maximum security penitentiary, and I've seen a number of great programs under way that other inmates don't have access to. I did not in that particular situation see a shortage, nor did I hear about it from the inmates or the first nations people, including liaison officers.
Can you make a comment and update us, perhaps? I know that there was a similar question posed to you the last time you were here.
Thank you for coming, and thank you for your excellent work.
If you ever feel that your reports--past, present, or future--are not getting the respect due from the government, please write to the clerk here so we can have that information.
Certainly, as the other members have said, it is quite an indictment of the federal government that aboriginal incarceration, already unacceptably high, is actually increasing. This is horrible and unacceptable. It has been brought up many times in Parliament.
A great danger to society comes from...because virtually everyone gets released from prison. They are more dangerous when they get released if there's not sufficient training and rehabilitation, with anger management.
I had different feedback than Mr. Rickford; I'm not sure you totally answered that.
So there's not enough of these, and therefore the government's current programs are actually making society more dangerous because of the lack of this. In fact, because there will be increased incarceration without an increase in these services, it will be even more dangerous, with more victims and more danger to society.
Do you have any comments on that, both for the aboriginal population, on which specific stuff is missing, and for the general population?
Good afternoon, everyone. I would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.
By way of background, I have been Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada since June 2008. From 2002 until that time, I was the Correctional Service of Canada's senior deputy commissioner. I actually began my career as a correctional officer in 1978.
I have also worked in the provincial and territorial correctional systems, first in the Yukon as the warden of the territorial jail and as the acting director of community and correctional services, and then in Saskatchewan as the assistant deputy minister responsible for probation and correctional services for the Department of Corrections and Public Safety. I believe my experience in the territorial, provincial, and federal correctional systems has provided me with a good understanding of issues surrounding aboriginal corrections.
The disproportionate representation of aboriginal peoples throughout the criminal justice system has been well documented. Currently aboriginal peoples account for about 4% of the adult Canadian population, but 17% of the federal offender population. The factors associated with this overrepresentation are multi-faceted and complex. They involve such challenges as community health and well-being, socio-economic inequities, and intergenerational trauma. The factors are not only multi-dimensional; they are, quite frankly, societal in nature.
CSC is at the receiving end of the criminal justice system, and as such has very limited capacity to resolve these multiple factors. What we can do is take action within our legislative responsibilities to address the needs of first nations, Métis, and Inuit offenders as set out in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
The Corrections and Conditional Release Act is very specific about our responsibilities with respect to aboriginal offenders. It requires us to provide culturally appropriate policies, programs, and interventions that address factors associated with risk and needs of offenders as a foundation for their safe return to the community.
: Oui, monsieur le président.
It also gives aboriginal people a place in the development and delivery of federal correctional policies, programs, and services, while providing for aboriginal spirituality and culture in the correctional environment.
For example, section 81 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act sets out the provisions for the establishment of agreements for the transfer of minimum-security aboriginal offenders interested in pursuing a healing path from CSC facilities to the care and custody of healing lodges established in aboriginal communities. The Corrections and Conditional Release Act guides our efforts to address the needs of aboriginal offenders. In a moment, I will give you an overview of the steps that we have taken and plan to take to address these needs, but first I'd like to outline for you some of the challenges that we face in our work.
Aboriginal offenders tend to be younger than non-aboriginal offenders, with greater needs and higher risk levels. Many have lengthier criminal histories and a greater percentage of violent convictions and gang affiliations. Over the past several years, there has been a trend toward shorter sentences for all offenders, including aboriginal ones. This trend seriously limits the time available for CSC to provide access to programs and interventions dealing with important issues such as substance abuse and violence prevention, areas of critical importance for the safe return of aboriginal offenders to the community.
Aboriginal offenders tend to represent a greater proportion of unmotivated offenders who refuse to access programs and comply with correctional plans. They also demonstrate greater needs in areas such as substance abuse, employment and employability, and education. In this context, aboriginal offenders continue to serve a greater proportion of their sentences in institutions, are more likely to waive or postpone their parole hearings, and have higher rates of reincarceration during periods of conditional release.
Responses to these issues are challenging, but we have taken a course of action that we believe will improve results over the long term. Research has demonstrated that reconnection with culture, family, and community are key factors in the rehabilitation and reintegration of aboriginal offenders. Therefore, Correctional Service of Canada's approach to aboriginal corrections is based on a continuum of care model. It begins at admission, is followed by paths of healing, and ends with the reintegration of aboriginal offenders into the community. This approach has a positive impact on public safety—it engages aboriginal offenders in the process, thus reducing the likelihood of reoffending and reincarceration.
The continuum of care model, which was developed with the guidance of aboriginal elders, was adopted by the Correctional Service of Canada in 2003 and expanded in 2009 to emphasize collaboration and horizontality within government agencies and aboriginal communities. The model provides the flexibility necessary to respect the diversity of first nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples. It is also respectful of significant provincial and territorial variations in cultures, traditions, and languages, as well as the diverse needs and capacities of rural, urban, remote, and northern communities.
In 2006 we developed the strategic plan for aboriginal corrections, which expanded on the continuum of care model. In 2009 the strategic plan was updated in light of our accountability framework, which is designed to ensure that the aboriginal dimension is integrated into all aspects of our planning, operations, reporting, and accountability. It is grounded in specific actions within the context of CSC's five corporate priorities. The actions supported by the accountability framework reflect an understanding of aboriginal cultures and history, the current social reality, and the importance of cultural traditions when formulating meaningful correctional policy for the aboriginal peoples in our care.
Since 2004, CSC has been working towards the development of a northern strategy for corrections. A framework has been finalized and is being consolidated within an overall strategy. A discussion paper will be presented to the February 2010 meeting of Correctional Service of Canada's executive committee. The strategy will focus on the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut, as well as Nunavik and Nunatsiavut. CSC will be working closely with other federal departments and agencies, and with provincial, territorial, and aboriginal stakeholders to develop the northern strategy.
Several northern corrections programs and initiatives are under way with a focus on Inuit offenders, including the delivery of culturally appropriate programs, staff training, and liaison and consultation with territorial and federal government counterparts. Aboriginal offenders currently have access to education, work, correctional programming, and social or cultural services.
We know that effective correctional programs are an essential element in preparing offenders for their safe return to the community. As such, aboriginal offenders participate in both national programs, formerly referred to as core programs, as well as aboriginal-specific programs, which include the integration of effective correctional program principles with traditional aboriginal healing approaches.
CSC operates eight aboriginal-specific programs designed with aboriginal stakeholders for delivery by aboriginal staff. These programs target violence prevention and substance abuse, key areas that place aboriginal offenders at a higher risk to reoffend.
Through our experience working with aboriginal offenders, we observed that programs that include culturally appropriate elements and correctional interventions have proven to be more effective with an aboriginal population, which has higher risks and needs than other segments of the population.
For example, a recent evaluation has shown that male aboriginal offenders who participated in the “In Search of Your Warrior” program were 19% less likely to be readmitted to custody relative to a comparison group, and enrolments by aboriginal offenders in that program increased by 80%. Completion rates for the aboriginal substance abuse programs increased from 56% to 93%. Those who participated in our community maintenance program were 59% less likely to be readmitted for a new violent offence.
Because of this success, CSC is continuing to build capacity to deliver culturally appropriate treatment. As part of our national program improvement plans, CSC is developing an integrated correctional program model that will allow for inclusive and more efficient delivery of programs to all offenders. This new program model will be piloted in the spring of 2010. This model includes an ongoing support for the higher-risk offenders—for example, those in maximum security institutions—as it is believed that offenders will have better opportunities to engage in the correctional plans and transfer to lower security, where they can focus on successfully completing their correctional plans and on reintegration efforts.
With respect to recruitment, retention, and cultural competency in our workforce, CSC is viewed as the second-best employer in the federal public service in terms of representation of aboriginal peoples. In fact CSC has developed a very aggressive strategy for the recruitment of aboriginal peoples for key positions of influence, such as program officers, community development officers, liaison officers, correctional officers, parole officers, and elders. In addition, we have promoted several aboriginal staff to assistant warden, deputy warden, warden, and other executive-level positions within our organization.
CSC has invested nearly $33 million in aboriginal corrections through fiscal year 2009-10 to support the expansion of aboriginal interventions and healing programs in our institutions; healing lodges in communities; increased access to elders in our institutions; an increase in Pathways units to offer more intensive healing and support; concrete action to address the needs of aboriginal offenders from the north, with a focus on Inuit offenders; and the creation of more aboriginal employment and job placement opportunities.
CSC continues to work collaboratively with all criminal justice partners and the community to fully support the safe transition of aboriginal offenders to communities. I believe our dedicated efforts have put us on track to respond to the unique needs of aboriginal offenders.
Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you this afternoon, and I welcome any questions that you may have.
Mr. Head, thank you for your testimony.
It was nice to hear from our Liberal colleague from the Yukon that the previous administration was an absolute failure in terms of dealing with crime in the north over 13 years.
Well, he took a lot of shots at us, and I'm going to do the same with him.
I have many first nations in my riding. I've talked to community leaders and I've been involved in first nations issues nationally over at least the last 15 years. The issue that my colleague Mr. Clarke brought up previously, which is aboriginal crime against aboriginal within their own community, is a growing concern. Much of the leadership is quite concerned.
A lot of this is no surprise to you, I'm sure. It's drug-related, and of course we have the huge population increase in youth.
So you're at the sharp end and you have a very difficult task, and I commend you for your progressive initiatives, which you've talked about today, to try to make things better. When you talked about your comprehensive response and the accountability framework that has come into play this year, which integrates all aspects of corrections planning, operations, reporting, and accountability, would it be fair to say it would be very difficult to operate without doing that at this point, given the makeup of the population?