4.5.1 Indigenous Peoples and the Justice System

Since 1989, 13 provincial and federal inquiries, commissions and studies have examined the issue of Indigenous peoples and the justice system in Canada. These include two in Alberta, one in Saskatchewan, one in Manitoba, and three at the federal level, including the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. They have all come to the same conclusion, that the criminal justice system in Canada is failing Indigenous people.1

Three Supreme Court of Canada decisions also reached this conclusion. Most notably the Gladue decision found that the over-representation of Indigenous people in Canada’s prisons was a “crisis in the Canadian criminal justice system.” The Court found that over-representation was “only the tip of the iceberg insofar as the estrangement of the aboriginal peoples from the Canadian criminal justice system is concerned.”2

In 2015/2016, Indigenous people were over represented in provincial and territorial correction services. They accounted for 26% of all admissions to correctional services. They represent only 3% of the Canadian adult population,3 and this proportion has been increasing – in the late 1990s, it was slightly more than 10%.1 While Canada now imprisons fewer and fewer young people, more and more of those young people are Indigenous.1

1Rudin J. (2018). The (in) justice system and Indigenous people. Policy Options. April 30, 2018.
2Judgements of The Supreme Court of Canada. R. v Gladue. 1999. https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/1695/index.do
3Reitano, J. (2017). Adult correctional statistics in Canada, 2015/2016. Juristat. March 1, 2017.