English: Prison and Aboriginal People Essay

Submitted By maxmyronuk
Words: 2093
Pages: 9

Aboriginals in the Prison system
Max Myronuk
CS007 Persuasive Writing
Angela Morris
November, 28th, 2014

In Manitoba approximately 50% of all inmates are aboriginal! (2008, Jana LaBoucane-Benson) That’s astounding. Our society is broken, an astonishing percent of aboriginals are being incarcerated annually. This is widely due to lack of education, poverty, substance abuse and a lot of community fragmentation. The question has been raised as to whether we should take into consideration aboriginality as a factor in sentencing. The Sullivan method was used to estimate the years of life lost to incarceration. Results Aboriginal males can expect to spend approximately 3.6 months in federal prison and within BC spend an average of 3.2 months in custody in the provincial penal system (2008, G Patti). It is argued that there is a large bias in our criminal justice system that is more imposed to refuse bail and to impose more and longer prison terms for Aboriginal offenders. As well it is argued that when sentencing aboriginals the judge should take into consideration the unique background factors that may have played a role in the Aboriginal offenders conduct. Not everybody feels the same way about how Aboriginal offenders are treated in the Criminal Justice System because many believe that showing them any sort of significant difference in court in comparison to a non-aboriginal offender is similar to racism or discrimination. In comparison to the United States, Canada has a relatively low rate of crime. Appropriate sentencing of Aboriginal offenders has been seen as a persistent challenge in many countries of the world whose populations include Aboriginal minority groups. There are a variety of reasons why this is so. In the first place, in some countries, there is recognition that Aboriginal people have unique traditional, constitutional, and legal rights (based on treaties, customary law, and/or constitutional recognition), often pre-dating the establishment of colonial states, which may entitle them to differential treatment under the law. Most often, this refers to an implied need to treat them in ways that are culturally respectful and appropriate, and which recognize their cultural heritage and uphold their “Aboriginal rights.”(2013 Stenning, p)
Over the last several decades, the Canadian criminal justice system has been encouraged to implement policies and programs that better correspond with the ideals and values of Aboriginal justice. A recent initiative is the introduction of Aboriginal courts. The courts would specialize in serving the Aboriginal people. The courts ensure that the charges against aboriginals are heard in a forum where the cultural sensitivity and respect are incorporated into the criminal justice process. New Brunswick has been reluctant to any change in its court system. Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan all have Aboriginal courts. These courts have been very successful and have reduced the amount of aboriginal inmates. A big reason why these courts were made was because of language. For example the court in Saskatchewan uses Cree, an indigenous language. The courts will use the language appropriate to its region. The courts still use the Criminal Code and use similar professionals such as judges, defence lawyers and crown attorneys. The goal of these courts is to give Aboriginal people an equal ruling, by catering to the language they speak and be sensitive to their cultural values. By doing this they are hoping to lower the amount of Aboriginals in our Canadian prisons. The systematic denigration and marginalization of Aboriginal people by the Canadian government continued until the latter half of the twentieth century. Turning points in this history of shame were reached with the Canadian Multiculturalism Act of 1971 and with the adoption of universal human rights in the Constitution Act of Canada in 1982. These acts provided the legal foundation with which