Good morning, everyone.
Mr. Chair, I would like to thank you and the honourable members of this committee for the opportunity to appear before you today.
I'm Anne Kelly, senior deputy commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada, or CSC, and I have responsibility for indigenous corrections within CSC. I've been with corrections for 35 years, half of which was spent mostly in institutions.
I have with me today Larry Motiuk, who is the assistant commissioner for policy. Larry is responsible for ensuring coherence in our planning and policy framework, including how we report on performance to Canadians. Larry has also been with corrections for 35 years.
I am grateful to the committee for providing us with the opportunity to highlight our vision, and some of the innovative strategies we have implemented in the Correctional Service of Canada over the past decade, in order to put in place the organizational structure to improve our criminal justice results.
Ultimately we want to improve reintegration results for first nations, Métis, and Inuit people, and contribute to public safety. It is my hope that we can provide sufficient information, including some of our key successes, ongoing challenges, and opportunities for improvement, to assist in your study of this important subject.
Following my remarks, we would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
I would like to start by providing context on the magnitude of the challenge of over-representation of indigenous peoples in custody across Canada, a challenge that has been described by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlan as a deep-rooted, endemic social problem. The has underscored the collective government commitment to addressing this monumental challenge.
As you are all aware, there are many factors that have contributed to this recurring national challenge. They include poverty; substance abuse; health issues, including mental illness; lack of awareness and understanding regarding the cultures and traditions of indigenous peoples; and, most importantly, the significant negative impact that residential schools had on indigenous cultures, communities, and families. Some of these factors were highlighted in the important 1999 Supreme Court decision with respect to Gladue.
In Canada today, indigenous offenders make up a significant and growing proportion of offenders in custody. Indigenous offenders represent over a quarter of those incarcerated in federal penitentiaries across the country. This overrepresentation is even more acute among women offenders, where more than a third of the incarcerated population is indigenous.
CSC has been at the forefront of improving the way that indigenous peoples are engaged in the design, development, and delivery of correctional services. In 1997, the service developed and implemented a national strategy for aboriginal corrections, with a focus on strengthening indigenous offender programming, enhancing the role for indigenous communities in our correctional operations and practices, and increasing the recruitment of indigenous peoples in the management of indigenous offenders.
CSC also began exploring the potential for establishing healing lodges in response to section 81 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. Through engagement and partnerships with indigenous peoples, by 2001, CSC had established four healing lodges under section 81 of the act, and four other healing lodges operated in close collaboration with indigenous communities.
The Correctional Service counts on the collaboration and co-operation of indigenous peoples to engage in the development and delivery of services to the first nations, Métis, and Inuit offender population. For that reason, the national aboriginal advisory committee and the regional aboriginal advisory committees continue to provide advice and guidance to CSC on policies and practices related to indigenous offenders. In addition, CSC engages the services of elders to provide spiritual and cultural services to indigenous offenders. We currently have over 140 first nations, Métis, and Inuit elders across the country providing spiritual counselling, ceremonies, and traditional teachings to indigenous offenders.
In 2001, as a result of funding of $18.6 million over five years, provided by Treasury Board Secretariat through effective corrections initiatives, CSC explored the expansion of healing lodges. CSC determined that, in order for offenders to be successful in these environments, it was essential that spiritual and cultural interventions were available within all institutions, at all security levels, so that offenders would be better prepared for a healing lodge environment.
In 2003 CSC developed the continuum of care model, created with the guidance of elders and the participation of national indigenous organizations. The aboriginal continuum of care provides a framework for delivering culturally and spiritually responsive services and interventions to our indigenous offender population, from intake through to warrant expiry. The aboriginal continuum of care provides culturally relevant alternatives to mainstream services, and by 2006 all institutions in every region had a base level of services for indigenous offenders.
The strategic plan for aboriginal offenders, which was developed in 2006, established a renewed policy framework, accountability at all levels of the organization, and an expanded aboriginal continuum of care. It increased programs, services, and interventions as well as providing a human resource strategy and training to address systemic barriers over time.
The aboriginal corrections accountability framework, a performance measurement report, was put in place in 2010 to measure progress for indigenous offenders, and positive results were identified. For example, indigenous offenders with a release plan under section 84 of the CCRA, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, who engaged with the indigenous community were more likely to receive day parole. As well, offenders working with elders and participating in the Pathways initiative were more likely to transfer to lower security.
Since the implementation of the strategic plan for aboriginal offenders, our organization continues to explore successful interventions to respond to the needs of indigenous peoples. We have developed and implemented the Sivuppiak action plan for Inuit offenders in 2013 to better respond to the needs of Inuit offenders. We enhanced and expanded the Pathways initiative to better meet the rehabilitation and reintegration needs of indigenous offenders. We have also strengthened the delivery of culturally responsive interventions to the indigenous women offender population.
Despite the progress made to date on several indicators, there are still significant reintegration gaps for indigenous offenders when compared to the rest of the offender population.
As members of this committee are likely aware, the Auditor General made eight recommendations in his fall 2016 report regarding the preparation of indigenous offenders for release to the community. CSC has fully accepted the Auditor General's findings and recommendations and has either implemented or is in the process of implementing changes to address them.
Moving forward, we remain committed to supporting indigenous offenders with a more robust approach that will focus our efforts to support their successful and safe rehabilitation and reintegration into the community at rates comparable with their non-indigenous counterparts.
While the number of indigenous Canadians receiving federal sentences is beyond our control, CSC's work and interventions can ultimately impact the length of time indigenous offenders remain under our care by focusing our efforts on timely and successful reintegration.
As part of a new strategy to significantly improve results for indigenous offenders, the Correctional Service of Canada has recently developed the National Indigenous Plan, with the objective of streamlining existing resources, strengthening case management practices, and ensuring that indigenous offenders who wish to follow a transitional path will have access to more intensive cultural and spiritual interventions and programs.
As part of this strategy, we have recently established seven aboriginal intervention centres across the country, including three in the prairie region, where a significant portion of our indigenous offenders are incarcerated. At these intervention centres, offenders, particularly those with shorter sentences, will receive programs and interventions earlier in their sentence and will begin the preparation for conditional release in advance of their first parole eligibility date. In addition, dedicated case management teams have been established and have received specialized training in indigenous case management and the consideration of aboriginal social history.
Offenders will be better prepared for release earlier in their sentence with more intensive and targeted support, increasing their chances for success upon release.
Good morning, Mr. Chair and honourable members of this committee. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address you today.
I'm Angela Arnet Connidis, the director general of crime prevention, corrections, and criminal justice at the Department of Public Safety.
I am pleased to be here with my colleagues from the Correctional Service of Canada. We work in close collaboration, and your committee's study of indigenous inmates and their release and reintegration outcomes will inform our knowledge and work on this issue.
Today I would like to describe some of the work the Department of Public Safety has undertaken to improve reintegration outcomes for indigenous offenders and to promote and enhance the safety of indigenous communities.
The overrepresentation of indigenous people across the spectrum of the criminal justice system is chronic and alarming, and my colleagues have reviewed the statistics that you're all well aware of. For this reason, indigenous corrections and community safety are ongoing priorities for the Department of Public Safety. We recognize that the overrepresentation of indigenous peoples in contact with the criminal justice system is a complex issue and that it requires a continuum of policies, programs, and initiatives to address the disproportionate rates of crime and victimization experienced by indigenous people.
Public Safety itself does not have responsibility for the management of indigenous inmates in federal corrections institutions, but we work in some key areas to improve their reintegration outcomes and support indigenous communities to create safe environments. I would like to talk to you in particular about three key initiatives we have undertaken to do this: the indigenous community corrections initiative, the aboriginal community safety development contribution program, and our national crime prevention strategy.
The indigenous community corrections initiative is directly related to helping indigenous offenders reintegrate into their community. Under section 84 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, if an inmate expresses an interest in being released into an indigenous community, the Correctional Service of Canada can, with the inmate's consent, engage with that community to codevelop a plan for the inmate's release and integration. This approach can help improve the success of an indigenous offender's application for conditional release and the outcome of that release.
However, not all indigenous communities have the capacity to engage with the Correctional Service of Canada to provide their input into a conditional release plan, nor do they have the capacity to provide indigenous inmates with the support they need upon release. This is the problem we're trying to address through the indigenous community corrections initiative. This initiative received $10 million over five years in budget 2017. Through this initiative, Public Safety will provide contribution funding to support training and capacity-building within indigenous communities. This will help them implement community-based projects that will in turn assist in the reintegration of offenders and provide alternatives to incarceration.
The important thing about these approaches is that they will be tailored and responsive to the concerns, priorities, and unique circumstances of the particular indigenous community applying for the funding. Through this initiative, our objective is to increase the indigenous community's capacity to work with both Correctional Service of Canada and provincial corrections to provide transition support in the release of indigenous offenders and improve their reintegration outcomes.
The projects will also contribute to the knowledge development of what works and are best practices in community reintegration of indigenous offenders. This could also benefit other communities dealing with similar issues.
Eligible recipients for this funding program include indigenous not-for-profit organizations; indigenous governments; municipal governments working in collaboration with indigenous organizations and/or communities; indigenous communities themselves, and Canadian universities and colleges.
The first call for proposals was launched on October 4, 2017.
We're very much looking forward to receiving, reviewing, and awarding funding to successful submissions. With a focus on reintegration, this initiative proposes to help reverse the trend of indigenous overrepresentation in the Canadian criminal justice system and will support the healing and rehabilitation of indigenous offenders.
The second initiative I referred to is the aboriginal community safety development initiative. We usually refer to this one as community safety planning.
Community safety planning is focused on building a community's capacity to create a safe community by providing it whatever support it feels it needs to develop and implement a community safety plan. It is a uniquely grassroots approach. Public Safety officials reach out to the elders and senior council members in indigenous communities, and we offer a trained facilitator and Public Safety officials to hold sessions with the community on how to identify its safety risks and its community strengths and goals. We support the community in developing a plan for what it needs to be safe.
We pay for the facilitator, who is experienced in working with indigenous communities, and we offer support for the process, but only if the community feels it is ready and invites us in. The community itself provides the venue and hospitality for the meetings, as well as a core group of community members to do the planning. To date, we have engaged with over 100 indigenous communities. Twenty-nine of them have completed their plans and are in various stages of implementation.
After the plans, we are now operating a pilot project with as many as 10 communities, and through this we engage other federal departments such as Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, Health Canada, and Justice Canada, as well as ministries and provincial governments that have a role to play in implementing components of the community safety plan.
From the perspectives of these partners, the community safety plan helps them target their funding more effectively and ensures that they are supporting projects that the community itself feels are priorities for its safety.
We are working with several indigenous communities to enhance local reintegration services and to develop capacity to enter into an agreement with Correctional Service of Canada to take on the care and custody of indigenous offenders, as allowed under section 81 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
We are hopeful that our continued work toward an integrated, comprehensive response to the communities' priority issues can replace a reactive approach to fixing problems.
By supporting indigenous communities in responding to and developing solutions to address their own corrections and community safety needs, we feel there is a greater possibility for sustainable, longer-term solutions.
The third initiative I want to discuss with you is our national crime prevention strategy. This is another key component of efforts to address the growing pressures on the criminal justice system by reducing the number of individuals who come into contact with the law. Successful interventions have been shown to reduce not only victimization but also the social and economic costs that result from criminal activities and the costs related to processing cases in the criminal justice system.
Under this strategy, Public Safety provides funding to support evidence-based crime prevention interventions with at-risk children, youth, and young adults, former offenders who are no longer under corrections supervision, and indigenous populations. The strategy has a targeted northern and aboriginal crime prevention fund that supports the adaptation, development, and implementation of innovative and promising culturally sensitive crime prevention practices. It supports the dissemination of knowledge and the development of tools and resources for indigenous and northern populations, as well as capacity-building as a means of exploring ways to develop or implement culturally sensitive crime prevention practices among indigenous and northern populations.
With regard to the crime prevention projects the department has supported since 2012, 46% of crime-prevention funding has involved indigenous people or communities.
I've talked about these three initiatives because they're most pertinent to your discussion, but I do want to let you know that Public Safety and Justice Canada share a mandate commitment to address gaps in services to indigenous people throughout the criminal justice system, and we're working closely with our colleagues to do that. As well, the extensive work and findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission include 12 calls to action that implicate our portfolio, and we're working across the portfolio and with indigenous organizations and other government departments to respond to these calls.
We know that to reduce the overrepresentation of indigenous people in custody, we need to focus on the social history and risk factors present in people's lives. This study is going to help us get there.
Thank you once again for the opportunity to address you today. I welcome any questions you may have
Yes, absolutely. We're quite pleased. This is a new approach, and it's in response to the Auditor General's report. This new approach we're implementing addresses the majority of the recommendations of the OAG report.
We're going to provide more intensive, focused support and interventions. We've created seven aboriginal intervention centres, three of which are in the prairie region. These aboriginal intervention centres serve as both intake centres, where we do the intake process with the offenders, and programming centres. We'll also offer programming there.
It's mostly for medium-security offenders serving short sentences. We'll have case management teams with specialized training, and we've already completed the training at all the aboriginal intervention centres. It's on aboriginal social history, on how to document the impact of the Pathways program on an aboriginal offender, training in a section 84 process, and also how to assess the impact of culturally relevant interventions, such as elder services.
The other component is that aboriginal community development officers, which I referred to previously, are assigned to these aboriginal intervention centres. Section 84 release plans, for those offenders who are interested, are initiated well before the offender's parole eligibility dates. Also, aboriginal community liaison officers will be positioned to work with communities as part of the section 84 process. They will meet up with the offenders three months prior to their release and follow the offenders for six months after release.
When the aboriginal offenders arrive at the aboriginal intervention centres, they will be provided with an explanation of the programs and services available to them. Then they will tell us whether they wish to follow the aboriginal continuum of care or not, because aboriginal offenders can also take mainstream programs.
It's a very good question. I think what we're looking at is a new approach to working with indigenous peoples. The community safety plan is one of them. We actually work with them. They identify what they need, and we help them get what they need, as opposed to saying to them, “We have this program, so take it. It might fit and it might not.” This is really about seeing what fits and what they need.
Then, importantly, this isn't the crime prevention strategy. It's community safety planning. We engage with the provinces and other federal government departments, because Public Safety doesn't have the mandate for those solutions. Other orders of government do, and other federal departments have those mandates.
When a community can identify where their risks are, we're trying, in these 10 pilot communities, to bring the other partners on board and to say, “Here's what they need to fix it, so what can we do for them to support their plan?” With about 680 different communities around, we've reached out to 100 so far. We have a long way to go, but that is part of fixing the problem at the root.
In our crime prevention strategy, a number of the programs that we work on with indigenous people are about strengthening families. It is about trying to look at the dysfunction that has come into families through, among other things, the history of residential schools, and to strengthen the family unit to repair it, keep people out of gangs, and create a safer community.
In a country like Canada, it really is about looking for all the synergies whereby we can bring all the players on board to tackle the problem.
When we look at the criminal justice system, we like to say it's on a continuum. If you want to change things, you need to look across that continuum, and the beginning of that continuum is crime prevention.
In the federal-provincial-territorial ministers meetings, one of the priorities was to develop a five-year national action plan for crime prevention. We're working closely with the provinces to build crime prevention together, to have joint action plans. This is not focused on indigenous communities but on crime prevention writ large. However, it's an acknowledgement that the federal government is not going to do it on its own, and the provincial government isn't, so we need to work together.
I find that a very exciting approach. I'm glad the ministers decided to take that on as a priority. We're moving into the last year of the five-year action plan, and we've had a very productive relationship with the provinces in bringing this forward.
When we look at the indigenous communities in particular and at the calls to action and wanting to move forward on reconciliation, it is at that crime prevention stage. You want to focus on that.
At Public Safety, we're doing an internal audit of crime prevention. We plan to restructure that perhaps, depending on what the evaluation shows. Part of it will be about how we can effectively get into communities.
One thing that is really important to bear in mind is that we can help with the solution, but we should really make sure that the key players are identifying what the problem is and what they need as a solution.