Self Respect in Accepting Personal Responsibility
"Nationally, aboriginal persons represent about two percent of Canada's population, but they represent 10.6 percent of persons in prison . Obviously, there's a problem here."The aboriginal community within Canada is indeed over-represented in the prison system. That is because, simply, more crimes are committed from within and in that community than from other Canadians and their communities. The death rate of young aboriginal men is high due to suicide, and it is higher yet as a result of rampant violence within the aboriginal community. Crimes against aboriginal women within the community are also high, but it is both genders who are vulnerable to community violence.
"We put the emphasis on restorative justice. We said when you have aboriginal offenders, please take into account any alternatives [to prison] that might be available."
"[Changing the sentencing provisions was] one part of the solution, but providing the alternatives to the court is the other, and I think we haven't done as good a job on that as we might have."
"The high rate of aboriginal incarceration is a symptom of a societal issue that we haven't confronted, which is the exclusion in large part of aboriginal people from access to education, access to the middle class, access to opportunities in the economy. As long as that goes on, you're going to find aboriginal offenders over-represented in the prisons."
"Putting a few words in that subsection of the Criminal Code ain't gonna be enough. You have to tackle the underlying issues."
Allan Rock, former Minister of Justice
"[This does not amount to ] a race-based discount on sentencing. The provision does not ask courts to remedy the over-representation of aboriginal people in prisons by artificially reducing incarceration rates. Rather, sentencing judges are required to pay particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal offenders in order to endeavour to achieve a truly fit and proper sentence in any particular case."
Justice Louis LeBel, Supreme Court of Canada
"When you have a lessened sentence, it really does feel like a slap in the face. It really does feel like a re-victimization for the victim."
"I have seen how devastating it is for the victim [even leading to suicide]. The victims deserve to have someone advocating for them in court just as much as the perpetrator."
Dawn Lavell-Harvard, president, Native Women's Association of Canada
"Should there be some benefit given to an aboriginal man for attacking his aboriginal wife and killing her?
"She is no less deserving of consideration than he is; indeed, the contrary."
Justice John Rooke, Nunavut Court of Justice
As are children. The dysfunction level of parental supervision of young aboriginal children is also high, with alcohol and drug addiction root causes, and patterning children to follow their parents' and communities' examples. Generally speaking, educational opportunities are not given the high value they should be regarded with, in the general aboriginal population. Aboriginals are swift to excuse themselves for these traditional cultural and social shortcomings by placing blame on the non-aboriginal community.
Discrimination certainly does exist, but latter day bigotry would certainly be reduced to fewer and further between if aboriginals themselves gave less fuel to the fire of discrimination. Turning toward rejection of the vices that destroy their lives and adopting the virtues that would enhance them. If not for themselves, then for the coming generation. Pride in heritage could be bolstered immeasurably by accepting responsibility for themselves, by rejecting the misogyny and violence that ruins lives.
Citing past injustices like colonialism and racism and the residential school program that took native children from their homes in an effort to wean them from aboriginal tradition is cited as a misguided and harmful practise that traumatized an entire population. Reality is never that cut-and-dry; in many instances those in the residential school programs learned to be industrious and capable people; they hadn't suffered the misery and violence that others have claimed.
Upper-class British (and Canadian) students have traditionally been wrenched from their families to be sent to residential preparatory schools and some lived through miserable experiences, yet by and large they prospered and survived the misery to become the best-educated and reliable scholars, educators, scientists, military personnel, lawyers and doctors in the elite-echelon of British society.
When in 1996 the-then government brought in a Criminal Code change to empower judges to consider 'the enduring impact of colonialism, displacement, residential schools in determining appropriate sentences in the carriage of justice for aboriginal offenders, including issues of extreme violence' the "Gladue" report instructed judges how they might proceed to administer the new law.
It has resulted in repeat offenders, and those who commit violent crimes, often not realizing the full extent of society's justice for such offenders. But even while the adjusted Criminal Code law was recognized and often utilized, the reality is that sentencing reform has done nothing to reduce the number of aboriginal Canadians behind bars. As four percent of the Canadian population they remain 24 percent of federal inmates; higher even for women with 36 percent aboriginal.
The government and Canadians at large generally feel responsible for the plight of native Canadians, accepting the past ills they suffered as having been reason for their high rate of crime and dysfunction. Continuing that sentiment may make the general population feel good about their high mindedness in willingly taking responsibility for the plight of the aboriginal society, but it really does no good for the native population themselves to rest comfortably in the soothing excuse that others are responsible, not themselves.
Substance abuse and mental health treatment programs could be increased, to offer both inmates and those in the general community more support, but in the final analysis it will have to be up to the aboriginal populations themselves to register their pride in who and what they are by redefining themselves as responsible for themselves. The high degree of dependency on government is no credit to an independent people who claim for themselves the status of a "nation", insisting on "nation-to-nation" respectful exchanges.
If they cannot respect themselves through full independence and mature responsibility, how can they find respect in the wider community, other than as vulnerable and hapless people needing constant direction and compassionate support without themselves exerting the effort to find their own direction with that support, as responsible citizens, proud of an independence they have not yet discovered.