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Justice for all? Stats show aboriginals hugely over-represented in prisons

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grumpy old man

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The Winnipeg Sun is running a series about this problem. When we talk about the high rate of crime in Winnipeg and Manitoba, especially the high rate of violent crime Winnipeg and Manitoba, we are over-represented, primarily due, I believe, to the extraordinarily high rate of Aboriginal crime.

The Sun won't allow comments, likely out of fear the racists will come out of the closet making discourse near impossible. So let's discuss this here as we are all mature enough to leave the racism for other forums.
Caught in a vicious cycle of victimization

By JILLIAN AUSTIN, Winnipeg Sun

Aboriginal people are three times more likely than non-aboriginals to be victims of violent crimes, according to data from the 2004 General Social Survey.

A violent robbery, physical assault or sexual assault is often (56% of the time) committed by someone who was known to the victim, such as a relative, friend or neighbour.

“Those kind of statistics are very troubling,” said Grand Chief Ron Evans of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

Evans said this is an issue that plagues the provincial reserves.

“Because of the conditions that we find ourselves in, it’s very difficult for one to improve themselves,” Evans said. “Growing up, they don’t have access to get involved in many ... of the activities that young people should be in ... so they can learn about responsibility and learn about how to get along with others in a way that will benefit them for life ...

“As long as we don’t provide those, what’s going to run rampant is the illegal activities.”

In total 21% of aboriginal people also reported having experienced some form of physical or sexual violence by a spouse in the five years preceding the 2004 survey. This compares to 6% for non-aboriginal people.

The GSS revealed that aboriginal people are much more likely to be victims of homicide than non-aboriginal people. Between 1997 and 2000, the average homicide rate was 8.8 per 100,000 population, almost seven times higher than among non-aboriginal people (1.3 per 100,000 population).

On-reserve crime rates in 2004 were about three times higher than rates in the rest of Canada. The difference was even greater for violent crime, with an on-reserve rate that was eight times the rate of the rest of the country.

Evans said leaders in the community continue to work toward solutions.

“We’re trying hard to make sure that we’re dealing with those issues ... and meeting the needs of our people,” he said.


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It's their, they're and there; in Canada it's colour, cheque, rumour and zed...

grumpy old man

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By Winnipeg Sun

It’s a sad fact that despite being a relatively small minority in this province, aboriginal people are the majority when it comes to run-ins with the criminal justice system. In a special series, the Winnipeg Sun’s Jillian Austin examines some of the reasons and joins in the search for solutions to this ever-growing problem.

Whenever a cell door clanks shut in Manitoba, the person inside is usually an aboriginal.

In the 2008-09 fiscal year, aboriginal convicts made up a whopping 71% of all admissions to provincial institutions. And while the statistics are particularly grim in Manitoba, they point to a larger national trend.

From 1998 to 2008, the aboriginal population in federal prisons increased by nearly 20%, according to a Public Safety Canada report.

Eric Robinson, Manitoba’s minister of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs, says the numbers are troubling.

“I’d like to say that some improvements have been made with respect to the number of aboriginal people doing time, but that’s not the case obviously,” he said.

In the entire province, aboriginal people make up just 12% of the adult population. So why is there such an overrepresentation in the jails?

Robinson said the root cause goes back generations.

“It’s hard to overcome generations of oppression towards aboriginal people,” he said. “As a result, many aboriginal people fall between the cracks and then wind up doing time.”

The residential school era took away the students’ cultural identity, which has been passed on through generations, he said.

“We have not been able as aboriginal people to generate enough to end that cycle that appears to be there,” he said. “What has happened has been ... this loss of identity of aboriginal people and that’s what has contributed to the social discourse of aboriginal people for the most part in the province of Manitoba.”

Jennifer Wood, residential school compensation co-ordinator with the Association of Manitoba Chiefs, says Canada’s history with aboriginal people continues to affect the population.

“I’ve always believed that the direct link to many of our problems is ... these are children of residential school survivors,” she said. “When you come out, you don’t have the parenting skills, you don’t have the emotional comfort that a child should have, you don’t have the ability to teach them certain things.”

Many families live in poverty on reserves, and when people make the move to the city, that poverty continues, she said.

“Once you come in to the city, you are a target because you are a vulnerable person,” she said. “You don’t have the street smarts. Vulnerability is a breeding ground for people wanting to recruit young people into the drug scene.”

Poverty is often linked to criminal activity, and Wayne Helgason, executive director of the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg says it is the “single most determining factor” for whether or not one chooses a life of crime.

“Our last report card clearly showed that 68% of children under the age of six who are aboriginal live in poverty,” he said.

When educational and other opportunities are missed, there is a general disassociation with society and its norms and values, he said.

“It gives you permission in your own way, to take what you can, while you can for immediate basic needs,” he said. “So it’s a predictable situation. If we have poverty and exclusion, we will have increasing rates of crime.”


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It's their, they're and there; in Canada it's colour, cheque, rumour and zed...

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When educational and other opportunities are missed, there is a general disassociation with society and its norms and values.

“It gives you permission in your own way, to take what you can, while you can for immediate basic needs,” he said. “So it’s a predictable situation. If we have poverty and exclusion, we will have increasing rates of crime.”


This pretty much sums it up for me.

We simply cannot continue with our present Reserve System...it keeps people down and this cycle continuing imo.

holly golightly

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Although I agree that there needs to be some sort of help provided to end the cycle, not necessarily monetary but definitely education of some sort, the following statement by Minister Eric Robinson makes it hard for me personally to have any faith in assisting. Why is it that most articles that are written about the aboriginal state of affairs has to lay blame on things that happened a long time ago. This generation of young adult aboriginals need to take some responsibility for their own lives and actions and make a change. The only person that can change you is you, no one else can make you change, you have to want to change.
“It’s hard to overcome generations of oppression towards aboriginal people,” he said. “As a result, many aboriginal people fall between the cracks and then wind up doing time.”

The residential school era took away the students’ cultural identity, which has been passed on through generations, he said.

“We have not been able as aboriginal people to generate enough to end that cycle that appears to be there,” he said. “What has happened has been ... this loss of identity of aboriginal people and that’s what has contributed to the social discourse of aboriginal people for the most part in the province of Manitoba.”


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Deank

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What about other immigrants loss of identity? why are they not criminals?


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holly golightly

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The immigrant people who come here and become involved in crime don't blame the Canadian people for their woes. Yes some immigrants come from absolute dire and/or horrible situations and may not know anything but violence and death but they do not make pleas of the government to "fix" it for them. My hubby works with kids who come from some of the worst war torn countries in Africa and these little kids' idea of play is straight out fist fighting and gang beatings. When they are told that is not acceptable here in Canada, they will say help me learn and my hubby will involve them in as many games as possible. It is amazing how quickly these kids pick up how to play like kids as opposed to warriors.


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Some people are like slinkies - not really good for anything but they bring a smile to your face when pushed down the stairs

grumpy old man

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Perhaps this is most telling:
Evans said leaders in the community continue to work toward solutions.

“We’re trying hard to make sure that we’re dealing with those issues ... and meeting the needs of our people,” he said.
I'd go out on a limb and say the community leaders are doing a horrid job with solutions. They show leadership by taking outrageous salaries? By not paying bills? By ignoring zoning bylaws?

Sorry Mr. evans, but you are not "meeting the needs of (your) people". Quite the opposite in fact.

That said, where do we/they begin?


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Yes, I really am that Grumpy...

It's their, they're and there; in Canada it's colour, cheque, rumour and zed...

grumpy old man

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Toronto Sun ran this feature as well. They left the comments on. Most (all?) of the comments are reasoned. Guess posting in complete anonymity provides the most ignorant amoungst us to say whatever they please. Removing that ability sure makes for a more friendly environment. Yet the Winnipeg Sun keeps the comments section closed.


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It's their, they're and there; in Canada it's colour, cheque, rumour and zed...

SuperNaut

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grumpy old man wrote:Perhaps this is most telling:
Evans said leaders in the community continue to work toward solutions.

“We’re trying hard to make sure that we’re dealing with those issues ... and meeting the needs of our people,” he said.
I'd go out on a limb and say the community leaders are doing a horrid job with solutions. They show leadership by taking outrageous salaries? By not paying bills? By ignoring zoning bylaws?

Sorry Mr. evans, but you are not "meeting the needs of (your) people". Quite the opposite in fact.

That said, where do we/they begin?

Some leaders and their bands are doing well.


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holly golightly

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It may be possible that if many of the bands here in Manitoba were to change leadership and put into power some of the forward thinking people in their community, things may change. But for the most part, the people of the reserves who can make the decisions to affect change are afraid of making that decision because of the imminent threats that are spoken and unspoken by the incumbent leadership. If more of the reserves here in Manitoba were to model themselves after OCN in The Pas maybe they would be much more successful and more of us skeptics would take them seriously. Look at what the Brokenhead people are doing with South Beach and how they are prospering. It is the commitment of the people to which change will be made and it is the people who are driving that change, not the government. Personally I don't agree with the Casino vision that both of these reserves are using but it is working to make the whole of the community prosper and it is helping to bring in more and more business that benefits all of the people in the surrounding communities that otherwise would not have benefited before the casinos were there.


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grumpy old man

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SuperNaut wrote:Some leaders and their bands are doing well.
Yup. No arguments here.

How many reserves do you figure are doing well? As a percentage, would you say 1%? 5%? 20% More?

More to the point, of the reserves not doing well, would you say that is more the norm?


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Yes, I really am that Grumpy...

It's their, they're and there; in Canada it's colour, cheque, rumour and zed...

grumpy old man

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holly golightly wrote:It is the commitment of the people to which change will be made and it is the people who are driving that change, not the government.
You've so nailed it holly! No amount of taxpayer largess will "fix" the reserves and begin solving the problems of the people if they don't take it upon themselves to lead the change.

Well said!


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It's their, they're and there; in Canada it's colour, cheque, rumour and zed...

eViL tRoLl

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The point that is missed in the articles is the incredible population pressure on the reserves, which in my opinion drives ALL the observed issues of crime, poervty, crowding, etc. When the treaties were signed this was done with groups of a few dozen people, and hunting grounds were allocated that would have been sufficient for a few hundred people, reflecting average growth. Now we have thousands living on many reserves, and half of them younger than 20 yeasr old but having already 5 kids by that age. While this will not help with current problems, the only solution for the future and main priority should be to reduce rampant population growth.

grumpy old man

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This is really no different than the rural flight to cities that began a few generations ago. It was not so long ago when the population of rural Canada outnumbered urban Canada.

Many native people are leaving the reserves and bringing their problems with them to the cities. Now with a large urban population there go the excuses that reserves traditionally served up.

In the cities there are jobs available; social agencies/programs; running water; health care...


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It's their, they're and there; in Canada it's colour, cheque, rumour and zed...

Deank

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on the subject of needing to change the leadership and them getting paid so much


http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2011/01/22/justice_department_questions_newton_groups_use_of_grants/

"It acknowledged in its response that it spent a “significantly higher
than customary’’ amount on food and beverage, but said it was to meet a
minimum set by the hotel. The center also blamed some of the costs on
the dietary needs and preferences of Native Americans.
"

Shocked


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grumpy old man

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Our governments and social agencies require greater oversight. Perhaps an independent oversight department (auditor) needs to be established. Take people from existing finance and HR departments so as to not simply create a larger bureaucracy.


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Yes, I really am that Grumpy...

It's their, they're and there; in Canada it's colour, cheque, rumour and zed...

grumpy old man

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When I traveled on business I'd pay maybe $10- $12 for the hotel's buffet breakfast. If not meeting a client I'd spend a similar amount on lunch. And maybe $30 - $40 for dinner at a "nice" restaurant. What's that? $50 - $60? How do these agencies claim $198/day for their meeting attendees?

Important to note that my expenses were paid by a private business. Seems almost criminal for a social agency to charge the taxpayer $198 a day for the same thing...


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Yes, I really am that Grumpy...

It's their, they're and there; in Canada it's colour, cheque, rumour and zed...

grumpy old man

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Here is an area that our social agencies could resolve very easily:
Cards stacked against aboriginal ex-convicts

By JILLIAN AUSTIN, Winnipeg Sun

Once their time is served in jail, many aboriginal ex-cons hope to start a new life.

In Winnipeg the first stop is often one of the employment agencies. But with a criminal record, no driver’s licence and no place to call home, the barriers are overwhelming, says Janet Easter, employment counsellor at the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development.

“First of all, I guess you can basically say they’re homeless, because ... when they do get out of the halfway house, where do they go? To the street right away if you don’t have any family,” Easter said.

People from northern reserves are often not able to go back home, she said, due to their conditions or other circumstances.

“Sometimes there’s no home for you,” she said.

The job search is often a futile effort.

“It’s very hard to do with limited education, limited work experience and no driver’s license,” Easter said. “And the criminal record is a big one.”

It’s hard for the counsellors who see these problems on a regular basis, she said.

“They have so much in front of them that they have to overcome. They just keep going but not really going anywhere,” she said. “I feel sorry. I just empathize with them.”

Often the only option is to turn back to a criminal lifestyle.

“How are you going to find a job when you have no bus fare? How are you going to find a job when you have nothing to eat?” Easter said.

A change needs to happen in the social assistance policies, Easter says.

“I’ve heard lots of stories where people have gone to assistance, and they say, “No, sorry,’” Easter said.

“We need to see a change in the social assistance, and how they assist people ... who are right at the bottom. They need that extra help.”


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Yes, I really am that Grumpy...

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grumpy old man

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We have these people literally captive in a prison for months and years. Why do they leave prison with no skills/trades that they can use to get a job and support themselves?

We spend untold amounts of money on talking heads to "council" these people. Why not take some of that coin and create work-programs so they can obtain practical experience?

Teach prisoners how to read and write. Teach them how to drive if that is required. Show them how to use a computer. These are all relatively low cost measures that will help create a more positive skill-set and lead to greater success in finding and keeping jobs.


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Yes, I really am that Grumpy...

It's their, they're and there; in Canada it's colour, cheque, rumour and zed...

Deank

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There are TONS of training opportunities in jail. However..more of these exists in federal prison ( ie 2 years plus 1 day sentence) and the fact is, most prisoners dont get large time any more because they spend most their time in remand building double credit for time served. SO.. if they end up with any time at all. they end up in provincial jails which while they have some training opportunities, they are also overcrowded so each prisoner gets less.

We could do better while they were in jail, but alot of that depends on the prisoner. Not many even care about the training opportunities that do exist.


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grumpy old man

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Make them care.

Take "x" days training. Pass REAL test. Get "X" days reduced from sentence. Don't avail yourself of training? Next time the prison sentence should reflect their lack of motivation.

Oh, and spend the money on facilities at every level (remand, provincial, federal) for training.

Let's take the excuses away. Those that really want to improve their circumstances will and should be rewarded accordingly. Those that don't care should be punished accordingly.

This should apply to chronic welfare recipients also.


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It's their, they're and there; in Canada it's colour, cheque, rumour and zed...

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Awhile back it was ruled that they cannot be forced to take or do any thing so the system is the old carrot on a stick . While I agree with you it is not possible under Canadian law .

Deank

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HA HA HA.

very wrong pav

very very wrong.


The reality is that no politician has the balls to make it happen legally.


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grumpy old man

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Let's assume what pav said is true. Do we 1) change the laws to make it so or b) accept it because that's the way it is an there is nothing we can do about it?


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It's their, they're and there; in Canada it's colour, cheque, rumour and zed...

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BULL sh1t the supreme court ruled this long ago and it is backed by the constitution

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