Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 36 - Evidence - April 30, 2013
OTTAWA, Tuesday, April 30, 2013
The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples met this day, at 9:30
a.m., to examine and report on the federal government's constitutional,
treaty, political and legal responsibilities to First Nations, Inuit and
Metis peoples, and on other matters generally relating to the Aboriginal
Peoples of Canada.
Senator Vernon White (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Good morning. I would like to welcome all honourable
senators and members of the public who are watching this meeting of the
Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples on CPAC or on the Web. I am
Senator Vern White from Ontario, and I am chair of the committee.
The mandate of this committee is to examine legislation and matters
relating to the Aboriginal peoples of Canada generally. In considering what
studies the committee might like to undertake, from time to time we invite
individuals, organizations and departments to give us an overview of issues
of concern within their mandate. Today, we will hear testimony from the
Office of the Correctional Investigator of Canada. Last month that office
tabled a report in Parliament that the committee is very interested in
hearing about. The report is entitled Spirit Matters: Aboriginal
People and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
Before hearing from our witnesses, I would like to take this opportunity
to ask members of the committee who are present this morning to introduce
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: Senator Lovelace Nicholas from New
Senator Munson: Jim Munson, originally from New Brunswick, an
Senator Demers: Jacques Demers from the province of Quebec.
Senator Raine: Nancy Greene Raine from British Columbia.
Senator Tannas: Scott Tannas from Alberta.
Senator Patterson: Dennis Patterson from Nunavut.
The Chair: Colleagues, please help me in welcoming the Office of
the Correctional Investigator of Canada, represented by Howard Sapers,
Correctional Investigator; and Marie-France Kingsley, Director of
Investigations. Mr. Sapers, we look forward to your presentation.
Howard Sapers, Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional
Investigator of Canada: Thank you. I appreciate the warm welcome and the
opportunity to be here. Good morning, committee members.
We have some prepared remarks, and I believe an advance copy has been
shared with you. I would like to go through those quickly, and we will leave
the bulk of our time for your questions.
In my capacity as the Correctional Investigator of Canada, it is always a
pleasure to be asked to appear before this committee and, in fact, any
Senate committee, in comparison sometimes to that other place. In the
interests of time, we will keep our remarks short, so that we will have an
opportunity to have an exchange on the issues raised and answer your
questions about our perspective on matters pertaining to federal Aboriginal
Today, I am joined by the Director of Investigations for my office,
Marie-France Kingsley. Ms. Kingsley will speak to the role of my office as
an ombudsman, and then she will reference some of the information and trends
on federal corrections as they pertain to Aboriginal offenders.
I will then discuss in more detail the special report to Parliament
entitled Spirit Matters, which was tabled on March 7 of this year.
As you know, the overrepresentation of Aboriginal men and women entangled
in Canada's criminal justice system is not new. The social, cultural,
historical and economic factors that give rise to Aboriginal incarceration
rates that are several times higher than national rates have been
extensively documented. These rates manifest from the lingering effects of
residential schools and the creation of reserves. From the first contact
onward, the dominant metaphors of this contact have been assimilation,
dispossession and displacement of Aboriginal peoples.
I will now turn it over to Ms. Kingsley and then continue with my remarks.
Marie-France Kingsley, Director of Investigations, Office of the
Correctional Investigator of Canada: Thank you, Mr. Chair. The Office of
the Correctional Investigator serves as an ombudsman for federally sentenced
offenders. The office's mandate provides for independent monitoring and
oversight of federal corrections. On an annual basis, the office receives
approximately 6,000 offender complaints. In 2011-12, investigators spent
about 370 days in federal penitentiaries and interviewed more than 1,600
offenders. In last fiscal year, the office received 18,000 contacts on its
toll-free number and conducted over 800 uses of force reviews.
The factors that give rise to Aboriginal over-representation in the
prison system have been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada in the
R. v. Gladue (1999) decision and more recently in R. v. Ipeelee
(2012) decision. They include: effects of the residential school system;
experience in the child welfare or adoption system; effects of the
dislocation and dispossession of Aboriginal people; family or community
history of suicide, substance abuse and/or victimization; loss of, or
struggle with, cultural/spiritual identity; level or lack of formal
education; poverty and poor living conditions; exposure to/membership in
Aboriginal street gangs.
Today, 23 per cent of the federal incarcerated population is Aboriginal.
In 2000-01, Aboriginal inmates accounted for 17 per cent of the federal
inmate population. The Office of the Correctional Investigator estimates
that Aboriginal adults are incarcerated at a rate that is 10 times the
national average. These rates are increasing.
Since 2005-06, there has been a 43 per cent increase in the Aboriginal
inmate population, compared to just a 5.6 per cent increase in non-Aboriginal
inmates. There are now over 3,500 Aboriginal offenders inside federal
Correctional outcomes are far worse for federal Aboriginal offenders than
for non-Aboriginal offenders. For example, Aboriginal offenders are much
more likely to serve their entire federal sentence behind bars than their
non- Aboriginal counterparts. In 2011-12, Aboriginal offenders accounted for
45.1 per cent of all cases held to warrant expiry despite comprising 22 per
cent of the inmate population.
In fact, the majority of First Nations, Metis and Inuit offenders gain
release from a federal prison by statute, at the two-thirds point of their
sentence, not through parole.
Aboriginal offenders receive a much lower proportion of full and day
parole releases than might be expected based on their representation rates
within the inmate population. Although conditional release grant rates are
low for all inmates, they are worse for Aboriginal men and women.
Aboriginal offenders accounted for 45 per cent of all self-injury
incidents in federal prisons. Eight of the 12 most prolific self-harming
offenders in federal prisons last fiscal year were Aboriginal — four of them
were Aboriginal women.
Aboriginal offenders are over-represented in segregation and maximum
security institutions. They are classified as higher risk and higher need in
categories such as employment, community reintegration, substance abuse and
family supports. These realities unfortunately define Aboriginal corrections
in Canada and they defy easy solutions.
Finally, the numbers for Aboriginal women are the most worrisome.
Aboriginal women are the fastest growing sub- population in federal
corrections today. The number of Aboriginal women in federal custody has
virtually doubled in the 10 year period between 2002 and 2012.
Mr. Sapers: Committee members, this is the context within which my
special report to Parliament on Aboriginal corrections was released.
Spirit Matters represents my office's assessment of how Aboriginal-specific
provisions of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the law that
governs federal corrections, has been applied since those provisions came
into force over 20 years ago in 1992.
In particular, the report examined the use of sections 81 and 84 of the
law. Section 81 allows the minister to enter into agreements with Aboriginal
communities to transfer care and custody of Aboriginal offenders who would
otherwise be held in a CSC facility. Section 84 provides for Aboriginal
community involvement in release planning of an Aboriginal offender
returning to their community.
The legislation also provides for a national Aboriginal advisory
committee and makes it clear that Aboriginal elders and spirituality have
the same status as other religions and religious leaders. When enacted in
1992 by the federal government, Aboriginal-specific provisions of the CCRA
were part of a series of remedial measures to stem the tide of
overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in corrections, in part driven by
the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in 1995. The reforms included the
introduction of new sentencing principles in 1996 and culminated in the
aforementioned landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v. Gladue
These sections of the law govern correctional practice and treatment of
Aboriginal offenders under federal sentence. They do not imply or give rise
to "preferential treatment." Aboriginal-specific provisions of the
correctional law give expression to the notion that in order for our system
to be fair, individual differences must be acknowledged. Equality does not
mean treating everyone exactly the same; it means recognizing disadvantage
and disparities in both opportunity and outcome and trying to remediate them.
What did we find 20 years after the CCRA was enacted by Parliament? We
found limited use of sections 81 and 84 legislative provisions to transfer
care and custody, services and programs to Aboriginal communities.
In fact, only four section 81 agreements have been concluded with
Aboriginal communities since 1992. These four agreements account for only 68
section 81 beds across Canada. This is equal to capacity for just 2 per cent
of the 3,500 Aboriginal inmates in custody. There are no section 81
agreements in British Columbia, Ontario, Atlantic Canada or in the North.
Although one existing agreement has been expanded, there have been no new
section 81 agreements signed since 2001, despite more than a 40 per cent
increase in Aboriginal incarceration numbers. Three of four section 81
facilities are on reserve land, yet most Aboriginal offenders are released
to an urban setting. There were no section 81 beds for Aboriginal women
until September 2011.
We also found important disparities between Correctional Service of
Canada run healing lodges and those section 81 facilities operated by
Aboriginal communities. We found no permanent funding arrangements were in
place for the section 81 facilities. The Aboriginal community-operated
facilities operate on substantially lower budgets. There are significant
salary and benefit disparities for staff and heavy reporting, financial,
insurance and operational burdens faced by the section 81 facilities.
With respect to section 84, we found implementation to be underutilized,
overly complex, bureaucratic, unevenly applied and not well understood
either within or outside the Correctional Service of Canada. Out of a
workforce of approximately 19,000, Correctional Service of Canada has only
12 Aboriginal community development officers to help facilitate section 84
releases. The number of section 84 releases dropped by more than 50 per cent
over the last five years. Fewer than 100 offenders benefited from a section
84 release last year.
Other key findings of Spirit Matters include: restricted
eligibility criteria effectively exclude most Aboriginal offenders from
section 81 consideration; limited understanding of Aboriginal peoples,
cultures and approaches to healing within federal corrections; inadequate
and uneven application of Gladue social history considerations in
correctional decision-making; funding and contractual limitations are
impeding the work of elders inside federal institutions; and inadequate
response to the urban realities and demographics of Aboriginal Canadians.
To address these findings, Spirit Matters makes 10 recommendations.
Amongst them, number one is to appoint a deputy commissioner for Aboriginal
corrections to ensure adequate focus and accountability. Two, negotiate
permanent, realistic and at parity funding levels for existing and future
healing lodges and significantly increase the number of bed spaces where the
need exists. Three, expand Correctional Service of Canada staff training
initiatives about Aboriginal people, history, culture and spiritualty to
include training in the application of the Gladue principles. Four,
resolve workload, payment and standard of service issues faced by elders to
ensure they are equal partners in the delivery of programs and services
within CSC. Five, reduce the amount of red tape and accelerate the process
for section 84 releases.
I appreciate that the challenges facing the Correctional Service of
Canada with respect to disproportionate rates of Aboriginal representation
fall largely outside its jurisdiction and require a whole-of-government
approach in addressing, amongst other things, education, employment,
housing, and health care. However, there are some things that the
Correctional Service can and must do to narrow the gap in disparities and
outcomes for federally sentenced Aboriginal offenders.
The Correctional Service's initial response to my report, Spirit
Matters, has been disappointing. All of the report's recommendations
were either rejected or used to endorse the status quo. In my assessment,
there is nothing new in the service's response that will arrest, much less
narrow, the gap in correctional outcome and disparities that contribute to
rising incarceration rates for Canada's Aboriginal people.
The purpose of my report was modest. It investigated whether the
Correctional Service is doing all it can and should to make sure the will of
Parliament is respected in regard to appropriate consequences and treatment
for Aboriginal offenders. I found some serious and troubling gaps between
the law and practice. Stronger leadership and improved implementation of
mandated Aboriginal initiatives are required to address the growing problem
of Aboriginal overrepresentation in Canada's prisons.
I would be pleased to discuss these findings, the recommendations of
Spirit Matters and any other issues related to the treatment of
Aboriginal offenders in federal corrections. Once again, thank you for the
opportunity to appear this morning.
The Chair: I wanted to advise that we now have Senator Seth and
Senator Sibbeston, who have joined us, from Ontario and Northwest Territories.
Senator Munson: Mr. Sapers, one can have a long preamble but I do
not have one in my first question. How did it come to this? Why was this
allowed to happen in thesociety that we live in today?
Mr. Sapers: Senator, I wish I had a short and direct answer. The
questions about the why have many answers. Certainly the Royal Commission on
Aboriginal Peoples identified a number of historical and cultural factors.
It is impossible to overestimate the impact residential schools and
displacement had on generations of Aboriginal Canadians. Even otherwise
benign policies on things like zero tolerance and placement of police in
schools in urban and inner city environments have had significant and
differential impacts. We have had inadequate review in terms of policy
impacts as they land on different parts of our population. All of this
together has resulted in an accelerating increase in the number of
Aboriginal Canadians that come into conflict with the law and end up in our
There is no indication that that growth in incarceration rates is slowing.
It is clear that criminal justice fixes will only address a small part of
the problem. As I mentioned, many of the issues fall outside of corrections
but even the criminal justice system.
Senator Munson: You talked about troubling gaps between the law
and practice in ignoring the will of Parliament. I have just a couple of
matter-of-fact questions based on your report and findings. Contractual
limitations impeding the work of elders inside the institutions, how many
Aboriginal elders are currently working in the federal penitentiary system?
I think you may have said a number. Has the number kept pace with the
increase in the number of incarcerated Aboriginal Canadians?
I know there will be many questions, so I will throw one in here as well
along with that one, and it has to do with Aboriginal representation. In
2008 former Senator Bob Peterson raised concerns about representation on the
national parole board. I would be curious to know how many First Nations,
Metis and Inuit persons are currently members of that board. Does the number,
in your view, adequately reflect the proportion of incarcerated Aboriginal
Canadians? Would improved representation on the national parole board
produce better outcomes for First Nations, Metis and Inuit persons in
federal penitentiaries? They are two separate questions but they come to the
heart of the matter, I think.
Mr. Sapers: Thank you, senator. I will get the numbers for you of
elders employed directly and under contract. Aboriginal elders are involved
in institutions as well as in the community. The largest category complaint
that we received from elders is that there are impediments to them being
directly involved in healing initiatives with Aboriginal inmates just
because of bureaucratic limitations. I do not have the absolute number at
hand: I will get it to you and provide it to the clerk of the committee.
The number of Aboriginal elders and the contracts for Aboriginal elder
participation has not kept pace with the growth in the Aboriginal count
behind bars. My jurisdiction does not include the Parole Board of Canada,
but I will also undertake to get that information or at least have someone
from the Parole Board of Canada, who has that information, provide an answer
to the clerk.
Senator Munson: You talked about section 81 and allowing the
minister to enter into agreements with Aboriginal communities to transfer
care and custody. You spoke about that, but it is hard to believe there are
no new facilities, I understand since 2001, despite this 43 per cent
increase, nothing, zero. That is terrible.
I think you are being very polite when you said it was "disappointing,"
but it is more than disappointing. It is almost like wilful neglect. In your
view, is this due primarily to the lack of what governments would call
resources or a lack of commitment to providing services to Aboriginal
Canadians in federal penitentiaries?
Mr. Sapers: There has been an expansion of one of the agreements,
as I said, in 2011 to provide for some beds in urban Edmonton for Aboriginal
women. That is the only change in the agreements. The 68 beds that were put
into place beginning in 1999 have not increased. There were a number of very
robust discussions under way in the late 1990s and early 2000s with a number
of Aboriginal communities. Those discussions resulted in no new contracts.
There are certainly capacity issues within the Correctional Service of
Canada. I do not believe, however, that they are fiscal resource issues. At
the same time, the Correctional Service of Canada opened up and began
operating its own healing lodges. That is where we see the point of
disparity in terms of the resource base, salary levels, et cetera.
I have had discussions with Aboriginal communities literally across the
country over the last year, and I can assure the committee there is interest
on the part of Aboriginal communities to enter into section 81 agreements.
However, there is a lot of frustration about the previous process and a lot
of anxiety about entering into agreements that they see may not be balanced
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: Thank you for being here today. Is the
correctional funding the same for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal inmates: for
example, for food?
Mr. Sapers: The Correctional Service of Canada and Public Safety
Canada publish estimated annual average costs for offenders based on gender
and based on security category, and they do not make any distinction based
on race or culture for those numbers.
The numbers that we looked at were the dollars spent to fund a healing
lodge bed operated by an Aboriginal community under a section 81 agreement
or to fund a healing lodge bed operated by the Correctional Service of
Canada. We found a huge gap, as much as a 40 per cent difference in the
amount per bed to support that service and that program.
The section 81 facilities are underfunded in comparison to what CSC
spends to run their own facilities to provide an equivalent service.
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: What are the factors, in your opinion,
that increase federally incarcerated Aboriginal women? Why are more women
than men in prisons?
Mr. Sapers: It is a very complicated question. Again, I am sorry,
I will give you only a partial answer. We have seen an increase in women
being incarcerated internationally. In most western jurisdictions, the
incarceration rate for women is growing.
In Canada, it has been a startling growth, 93 per cent in 10 years, so
almost a doubling in the incarceration rate for Aboriginal women. There are
many reasons for this. Some of those reasons have to do with other policy
changes. We know that women have different trajectories into conflict with
the law. We know that women who are in federal custody overwhelmingly have
personal histories of significant trauma, sexual/physical abuse and
The growth, again, seems to be very directly related to the circumstances
that those women are in, the degree to which they come into conflict with
the law and the nature of the policy changes that have ended up with
incarceration being a more frequent consequence of that conflict with the
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: What kind of policy changes are you
Mr. Sapers: There have been changes that, for example, have
removed or restricted conditional release, so the abolition of accelerated
parole review has had an impact. There have been policy changes that have
created more mandatory minimum penalties. That has had an impact on
incarceration. The nature of the criminal activity of women involved in
either the sex trade or with illegal substances has also had an impact and
has affected women incarceration rates.
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: If you think there is a solution, what
do you think it would be?
Mr. Sapers: Please keep in mind that I live in a very special and
narrow world, and that very special and narrow world is the operation of
federal penitentiaries and places of custody and ensuring that they are
operated in compliance with the legal and policy framework that has been set
Let me repeat that I honestly believe that most of the solutions fall
outside of that special world that I live in, but there are things that the
Correctional Service of Canada can do. For example, the hiring of more
Aboriginal community development liaison officers would be a start. There
are some 44 minimum, medium and multi-security level institutions. At a
minimum there should be one attached to every one of those institutions.
Working to move resources out of institutions and into the community, which
was contemplated when Parliament passed the CCRA and included section 81,
and working hard to move those resources into appropriate contracted
services, would be a start. Changing the governance and leadership structure
within the Correctional Service of Canada by appointing a single senior
leader that sits around their management table to be accountable for
progress on this file would make a difference. Within that narrow world of
federal corrections, there are some things that I believe would help.
Senator Demers: Senator Lovelace Nicholas asked two questions that
I was going to ask. Not because I was going to ask them, but they were good
questions nonetheless. I want to give her credit.
I am a father of three daughters and two granddaughters. I am not saying
that young boys and men should not be protected. My daughters have done very
well; they are married. I have always found that younger women are more
vulnerable and so much easier to attack. Who protects those young girls? It
starts somewhere at the age of 13, 14 or 15 with taking drugs, incest, being
raped. Young men deserve help, too. Do not get me wrong; I also have a son.
Who protects those young girls? Where do we build the fence around these
young kids — I will say girls — to protect them and give them direction and
a way of life? As Senator Lovelace Nicholas said, it is one out of three
girls, one out of five guys, and 34 per cent women. I just have a hard time
with that. Hopefully you can provide more details regarding that.
Mr. Sapers: Thank you, senator. Your questions really strike to
the heart of the matter. Just a few weeks ago, I attended a national forum
in Edmonton that was co-hosted by the Assembly of First Nations and the
National Aboriginal Women's Commission to look at the development of a
national agenda, a national strategy for ending violence against women and
girls. Some very positive and hopeful discussions took place during that
forum; more than that, there was a very emotional outpouring of need. This
is, in fact, a matter that needs focused national attention. Communities
across the country have to come to terms with their issues.
There is no shortage of evidence about the need and about the
vulnerability of children. You mentioned specifically the vulnerability of
young women, and we have seen some horrific examples of when those
vulnerabilities have been exploited by people who are intent on doing harm.
Senator, if the outcome of this discussion is that it gives support to
the development of that national strategy and it helps accelerate that
agenda for dealing with violence against women and girls, I think that would
be a great outcome. However, again, I want to say that when we set about in
the role of being the ombudsman in federal corrections to look at the CCRA,
our focus was really on whether or not the Correctional Service of Canada
was doing everything it could and should do. I realize that is a very narrow
part of the discussion.
Senator Demers: I note your concern and I really like that. Thank
you very much.
The Chair: If I may, I will jump in now. I see the list is
growing, and if I do not jump in, I may not get a chance.
I want to thank both of you again for being here. I have to say that I
was challenged, having you appear here, that our focus would be at the wrong
end of this river. I know, Mr. Sapers, that you and I have had this
discussion. Even when I look at the violent crime severity index, which is a
good indicator of the types of crimes we are seeing from specific regions in
this country — Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon are, I think one,
two and three, with the highest violent crime severity index, and then it is
Saskatchewan and Manitoba — I probably should not be surprised as well that
that is where we see a lot of the Aboriginal offenders coming from,
percentage-wise, per capita.
I know you are focused on the Correctional Service of Canada, but I have
to drive you back upriver, if you do not mind.
Last week I was in Manitoba talking to some of the Aboriginal leaders in
First Nations communities there, and they talked about the things that are
happening in the communities that they believe are feeding the correctional
or federal facilities in this country. Knowing that you are talking to
people along the timeline from what is happening in the community all the
way to what is happening in corrections, what do you see as our biggest
challenge? I know you talked about education and early intervention, et
cetera. What do you see as our biggest challenge in the communities to
reduce the number of people we are seeing in jail, if you had to pick one
for Canadians to focus on?
Mr. Sapers: Senator, thank you for that, and thank you for giving
me the opportunity to go beyond my mandate in addressing your questions. I
will think back to my time of living and working in Alberta and in Edmonton
and the work that I did on the Safe Communities strategy in those days. You
cannot disentangle poverty, housing, education, employment and addiction
from conflict with the law. If there is going to be positive movement at the
downstream end of the system, when we open up the doors to our prisons and
jails, it must be at that level of community support and community capacity.
Certainly dealing with stable housing is a huge issue in urban
environments. Dealing with poverty and educational opportunities are huge
drivers. I do not believe these insights are unique, special or new. I think
that collectively we know all of that. By the time a crime is committed, it
is far too late for those kinds of interventions. At that point, the police
have a job to do, the courts have a job to do and prisons have a job to do.
That brings us back to my mandate.
I can tell you that section 84, which allows for Aboriginal community
participation, release planning and supervision of federally sentenced
offenders, is a good idea. It makes sense on so many levels for communities
who have participated. They feel safe and empowered by it. Offenders who
have gone through the process feel supported by it. In a community that you
are familiar with, Nunavut, I can tell you that last year, 49 Inuit
offenders were told about their eligibility for section 84 release. Of those
49, three quarters of them, 35, indicated they wanted to be involved in that
section 84 process. However, that year, there was not a single section 84
release. Even though the service did what they were supposed to do in terms
of informing Inuit offenders returning to the North that they were eligible,
and three quarters of them wanted to participate, none of them did.
Again, I come back to the capacity and the willingness of the
Correctional Service of Canada to actually implement those sections of the
law in the way that Parliament intended them to be implemented.
Senator Patterson: Thank you to the witnesses. Mr. Sapers, you
have been in this office I believe almost 10 years?
Mr. Sapers: Since April Fool's Day of 2004.
Senator Patterson: We commend you for that. In 2009, your office
released a report, Good Intentions, Disappointing Results: A Progress
Report on Federal Aboriginal Corrections, about halfway through your
present term. Were the findings in that report consistent with what you
found in Spirit Matters? Were there any recommendations from
that 2009 report that were implemented, or to what extent, please?
Mr. Sapers: The findings are absolutely consistent. The report you
refer to, Good Intentions, was a piece we contracted for in order to
have an external view of how CSC was doing on a whole range of commitments,
including the development of its Strategic Plan for Aboriginal Corrections
and its framework. It is a different view in terms of its performance
reporting. Also, many of the gaps that we see repeating in Spirit Matters
were identified in that 2009 piece.
My recollection at the time, in 2009, was that we simply reiterated our
one key recommendation that a deputy commissioner for Aboriginal corrections
be appointed. The Correctional Service Canada is headed by a commissioner.
The executive committee consists of a number of assistant, associate and
regional deputy commissioners. There are associate commissioners and deputy
commissioners responsible for women's corrections, human resources, health
care, et cetera; however, there is no senior leader specifically responsible
for Aboriginal corrections.
The senior deputy commissioner, the number two person at that executive
table, has Aboriginal corrections as part of his or her portfolio. It is a
major and significant part of the portfolio, but it cannot get the focused
and singular attention we believe it deserves if it is only part of a
Senator Patterson: Thank you. I guess you are saying there is a
senior management team in the Correctional Service Canada. You described an
executive committee and deputy and assistant commissioners. I also
understand the department has said something about cost and increased
bureaucracy in replying to your recommendation.
Surely if the corrections system wanted to focus on this neglected issue,
they could take one of the existing senior executive positions. I would like
to ask you if there is more than one deputy commissioner, but obviously
there is quite a management team; maybe you could outline just how many
there are. Surely the solution would be to take one of those senior managers
and say, "This is your focus." Would that be a solution, rather than
creating a new position, which is what the response seems to suggest would
Mr. Sapers: Senator, thank you. I am perplexed by the response
that it would create too much bureaucracy and there would be too much cost.
Currently there is a director general in charge of Aboriginal corrections,
who reports to the senior deputy commissioner, who sits at the executive
committee table and reports to the Commissioner of Corrections. Much of the
bureaucracy, if you want to talk about it that way, and much of the
structure is already in place. There is already an Aboriginal directorate
with program people and a small management team that deals with these
What there is not is a consistent person sitting at the senior management
table — the executive committee table — who, at every meeting, is raising
that as an agenda item. When we reviewed the executive committee minutes for
the last 20 meetings, we did not find a single use of the word "Aboriginal"
The model that you suggested is the one that CSC has adopted. They have
given the senior deputy commissioner the Aboriginal file as part of her
mandate. She takes it seriously, but it is only a part of what is a huge
We are not naive enough to think that simply creating a new title with a
new position and adding another piece of the bureaucracy will solve these
problems. We are saying that the issue deserves and merits focused
leadership and attention, and someone whose sole focus is moving forward on
this agenda — not just a piece of someone's job.
As far as adding additional costs, I really do not know how much it would
cost to roll up another chair to the meeting table, because that is really
what we are talking about. The rest of the structure largely exists.
Senator Patterson: Thank you. I have one more question, but I can
Senator Sibbeston: There is so much that can be said. I spent a
bit of my time earlier in my life as a lawyer working in a Native community,
and I played a role in the justice system defending Aboriginal people that
were before the courts. It was a very trying job trying to explain and bring
to light all of the factors and so forth that may have been responsible for
a person committing an offence — explaining them to a judge, a prosecutor or
the police who are all of a different culture. It was a real task.
Part of the problem is that Aboriginal people are different; it is a
different society and culture. Criminal laws, of course, as made in
Parliament here are made for all of Canada and generally made for the cities
where most people live. We have laws that are made and are applicable to
urban, mass Canadians, and there is an attempt to apply them in the rural and
northern communities, and with Native people. That is the problem.
I find that in government, the justice system is the most difficult to
and the most entrenched against change. That is part of the problem. They
are very resilient, well established and entrenched, so it is hard to make
changes within them.
In addition, when you talk about Native people, many Aboriginal people
have spent many years in residential schools, and jails are like residential
schools. Therefore, many Native people are comfortable and can function in
that setting much better than they do out in the world where they have to
make their own decisions. That explains a little bit why there are a lot of
Native people in jail. I think some people even like it in there; it is
simple in that you get fed and so forth.
It is interesting, when I used to defend people, occasionally when
someone was found guilty and went to jail, I would not see him for a few
months or a year. I would then always ask them when they come back, "How was
it?" People always say, "Not bad." This is in the Northwest Territories
where the jails are a lot better than in the South. There are a lot of
social programs that help them. They invariably come back a little fatter,
too. That is the situation.
However, it is so difficult. You paint a very dismal picture and you
wonder when this will ever change.
Aboriginal people are generally struggling. Most of their energy goes
towards improving their community lives, businesses and other social things.
There is not much tolerance or patience for people who get into trouble in
Native society. That is part of the problem. I think the solution is always
Native people trying to work with government to find programs and find ways
to deal with them.
As I said, on the Native side, most of the energy goes into surviving and
dealing with other programs.
I do not know what my question is. It is more of an educational process
and trying to explain my experience.
Would you agree that while we can look to government to do something,
invariably it is the Native peoples themselves who have to do some of the
work? They have to come to government with program suggestions and try to
help their brothers who are in jail.
Mr. Sapers: Senator, there are certainly some positive examples of
Aboriginal communities that have worked in partnership with either
provincial governments or the federal Crown to do exactly that. The section
81 healing lodges that exist, I think, speak to that potential.
Aboriginal communities are different in terms of their size, geographic
location, population base and resource base. I do not think there is a
one-size-fits-all kind of solution, but a willingness on the part of the
federal Crown to work with those Aboriginal communities in recognizing their
differences and their needs is a starting point.
In corrections, in the absence of other kinds of programs and
opportunities, we have seen that incarceration becomes a default. I think it
is very true and sad that some Canadians find living conditions in a prison
better than in their communities. Not only is that a shame, but it is a
Senator Sibbeston: I have one last question. Can I get a response
from you? The federal government has recently passed laws having minimum
sentences. Is it your feeling that this will make it so that more Aboriginal
people will end up in jail because the court does not have discretion as to
sentencing and putting people in jail?
Mr. Sapers: Senator, this is something that I think a generation
of academics will reflect on and we will see all kinds of work trying to
answer that question scientifically. I can give you my impression. In the
last half a dozen years, we have seen a 9 or 10 per cent increase in the
federal incarcerated population overall. At the same time, we have seen a
number of significant policy changes, mandatory minimums, some new ones
included. We have also seen the rate of Aboriginal incarceration grow to
where it is now 23 per cent of the population.
In a very straight line and in a very superficial kind of analysis, as
the carceral population grows, the portion of the population that is
Aboriginal seems to be growing faster. There is some kind of interaction
effect, but I could not draw a straight line for you today and say that this
specific policy caused that specific outcome.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Sapers.
Senator Raine: Thank you for being here and giving us such good
information. I have some questions that are perhaps my own curiosity, but I
would like to hear from you on them.
First, there are two different kinds of healing centres. One is run by
the CSC and a few by communities, which do not seem to want to take on the
chore because there does not seem to be consistent funding for them. Does
the CSC want to run Aboriginal healing centres or would they like to have
that done by the communities?
Mr. Sapers: My impression is that the Correctional Service of
Canada entered into the operation of healing lodges with the idea in mind
that control and operation would eventually be turned over to the Aboriginal
communities where they operate. That is my understanding.
There are four CSC-run healing lodges right now and four section 81
healing lodges. Any of the four operated by CSC could be devolved to
Aboriginal communities, but there is even a hesitation on the part of some
of those communities now because they are mindful, aware of what has
happened where the other healing lodges operate. They are mindful of the
disparity in funding and financial support, for example. They are mindful of
the challenges, even things as simple as gaining insurance for the
Aboriginal communities. These are significant operational challenges.
While CSC may have entered into operating the lodges with the idea that
they be turned over, that is not happening.
There are some other interesting differences as well. The occupancy rate
— the utilization of beds in the CSC- operated healing lodges — is much
higher on average. On average, over 85 per cent of the CSC-operated beds are
used. When you compare that to the beds operated under section 81, around 70
per cent of the beds are used.
If a healing lodge is funded in part on a per diem bed usage rate, think
about the challenge that is to operate. You have a structure, you must hire
staff, pay for your insurance. You do all the things you have to do to
operate beds in a facility, but you may be getting paid on a usage rate.
Therefore, if you do not have 80 to 90 per cent occupancy, you do not really
have the funding stream needed to properly support the operation. CSC
controls who gets placed where. The fact that there is a higher utilization
in their own beds than there is in the contracted beds tells you something
about how those management decisions are being made. I am not faulting that.
If I was managing CSC's budget, I might say, "I will use the one I am
already paying for instead of the one that is at an additional cost."
However, how do you enter into a reasonable agreement with the community?
I am sorry, senator. This is a long-winded answer, but you asked me a
complicated question. Remember that it was the Correctional Service of
Canada's policy decision, not prescribed in law, to only place minimum
security rated offenders in the contracted section 81 beds. Keep in mind
that only about 10 per cent of federally sentenced Aboriginal offenders — 10
to 12 per cent at any given time — are rated at minimum security. Upwards of
90 per cent of the population is excluded by that decision of even being
eligible for transfer to a section 81 facility. That was not the original
intent when the law was passed in 1992.
Senator Raine: It was a policy decision?
Mr. Sapers: It was a decision of the Correctional Service of
Canada. That is not part of a law.
Senator Raine: Obviously, your statistics show that Aboriginal
people who are incarcerated tend to serve the full time, not get parole or
get into some of these facilities where they can get the healing they need.
How do we get the Correctional Service to look at their policy? It should be
done on who has the hope of being healed and surely not what they did to get
where they are, but who has it within themselves that want to be healed.
Mr. Sapers: The way that the Correctional Service of Canada makes
its decisions around reintegration potential, security classification, et
cetera, raises some questions around how culturally appropriate those
screening and decision- making tools are. It starts there.
If you have a screening tool that results in one group of offenders being
rated as having lower reintegration potential, higher risk of reoffending,
needing to be housed at higher security, and then you have a policy that
excludes that exact same group from an opportunity to participate in a
program that was developed specifically to meet those cultural needs that
were considered to have put them at more risk of being in conflict of the
law, if you follow the circular logic, you are setting yourself up for the
kinds of outcomes we are seeing.
Aboriginal offenders fare worst on just about every measure of
correctional outcome we look at. They are released later in sentence, they
spend more time at higher security levels. If they are released, they are
typically suspended, paroled or revoked more frequently.
If you look at some of the research on outcomes of offenders who have
gone through healing lodges, healing lodge offenders returned to prison at a
slightly higher rate than non-healing lodge offenders, but they were also
put into those situations later in their sentence and rated at much higher
risk. It is not really a fair comparison.
It seems that in the one study that was done in 2001, I believe it was,
19 per cent of the offenders who came out of healing lodges and returned to
custody were in custody not for new
crimes, but for technical violations of their release, for things like perhaps breaking a
curfew or not residing in a specific geographic area or some other violation
of the terms of their release, as opposed to a Criminal Code offence. That
is nearly one in five of the returns: 19 per cent.
We have a number of policy issues that we have to unpack if you really
want to get to the question that you asked which was, as I understand it,
how to find those who really want to engage in a healing process and how to
provide the opportunities to them. There is a whole series of policies that
we have to go through to get to specific answers to that question.
Senator Raine: That clarifies a little bit, but it begs more
questions. One of the questions I already had written down was, is there a
plan in the CSC to introduce cultural awareness training to more of their
When you look at the number of staff that you have and the number of
people who actually are working with a knowledgeable background in terms of
Aboriginal issues, it is really bizarre. If 20 per cent of your population
is Aboriginal and there are only 12 people, maybe you can explain how that
works. Why is there not cultural awareness training for all staff?
Mr. Sapers: Senator, a couple of things, and here I want to be
really clear, because I do not want to be unfair to the Correctional Service
of Canada. They have many Metis, Inuit and First Nations staff, many more
than the 12 Aboriginal community development liaison officers. They are
represented by both men and women and throughout their structure.
The Correctional Service of Canada, particularly in the last 15 years,
has made tremendous strides in developing Aboriginal-specific and culturally
appropriate programming and screening tools. Things are, believe it or not,
better today than they have been. The participation of elders, the
availability of Aboriginal spiritualty, sweat lodges, access to ceremony,
circle hearings, elder-assisted hearings for the parole board, all of these
things have happened, and increasingly so, over the last decade or more. I
do not want to leave the impression that CSC is blind to these issues or has
done nothing. That would be unfair and untrue.
There is training available for staff throughout the system. The problem
is the training is not ongoing. There are not enough opportunities for
refresher courses. The training does not seem to address some of the
specific issues about decision-making against the Gladue principles.
They are not well understood, either at the management level or at the
line-staff level in terms of how the life history considerations that
Gladue speaks to are to be taken into account when making decisions
about placement and programming.
The good news is that the Correctional Service of Canada has made
progress. There are some positive things happening and there is training.
The bad news is that there is not enough of the training, it does not have
the right emphasis, it does not happen with the right frequency and it seems
to have some important gaps in the curriculum.
Senator Seth: I really apologize for arriving late, and I probably
missed some. It seems very interesting, what I am learning here. It seems we
have been talking here and paying large focus on what to do and how to deal
with this overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in correctional
facilities, which really is an important and disturbing issue.
However, I would like to know, has the CSC, the Correctional Service of
Canada, done much to implement preventive measures? In First Nations
communities, for example, are there services that help to identify and
target some of the problems faced within these communities so that crimes
committed by Aboriginal people could be prevented?
Mr. Sapers: The Correctional Service of Canada, as you know, has a
mandate to administer sentences. They have a more limited opportunity, in
terms of primary preventive initiatives. From what sometimes is referred to
as a tertiary perspective, or what happens at the point when someone has
received a sentence, that is where the Correctional Service of Canada has an
opportunity to shine. That is where the development of Aboriginal-specific
programs can have an impact.
We know that evidence-based correctional interventions, delivered by the
appropriate people at the appropriate time and matched to the needs of
individual offenders, have good outcomes. If you look at the Aboriginal
Offender Substance Abuse Program that was developed by the Correctional
Service of Canada, the evaluations show that it reduces recidivism. In terms
of tertiary prevention or returning to crime, that kind of culturally
appropriate program, properly delivered at the right time in a sentence,
seems to reduce recidivism.
We know the same thing from the research that was done on the Tupiq
program, which was developed specifically to deal with Inuit sex offenders.
The evaluation shows that that program, when properly delivered by the
appropriate people at the appropriate point in the sentence, reduces
recidivism. This is the way that corrections can prevent crime. However, if
your question was about the front end of the system, then that is not the
mandate of the Correctional Service of Canada. The Correctional Service of
Canada is not involved in primary prevention. They have a restorative
justice directorate. As I say, they develop and deliver correctional
programs, and these interventions are available to all offenders regardless
of race, gender or culture, through their correctional plans.
However, the ones that have been developed specifically to deal with
Aboriginal offenders, that have been evaluated, do show that if they meet
the criteria set up when the programs were developed, and when properly
delivered, have the right impact.
Senator Seth: Have any studies been conducted to suggest a cost
saving in preventive measures versus prison time? Are there any studies, let
us say, of the healing lodge that show it is part of something that is
more prevention where they can be given effective messages and things like
this? Have any studies been done that show we can do some preventive
measures in comparison to staying in prison, which is expensive. Is there
Mr. Sapers: I can tell you a couple of things about that. I am not
aware of a specific value-for-money or cost-benefit study that has been done
on a healing lodge. I do not know if one exists: I have not seen one.
I can tell you a couple of things about what we know about money. CSC
says it costs about $110,000 a year, on average, to keep a male medium
security offender in custody, and it costs less than $30,000 a year to
supervise that same offender in the community on parole. If the risk can be
managed in the community through appropriate supervision, you can save money
by simply moving the person into an appropriate community support as opposed
to keeping them incarcerated. That is one cost comparison.
There are lots of these studies out there — Canadian and American
primarily, although there are others — that show that early intervention and
prevention initiatives have anywhere between a 4:1 and a 7:1 cost savings,
the literature shows. In other words, for every dollar you spend on early
intervention and prevention in a community, you will save $4 to $7 downstream in
other social and criminal justice system costs. There are lots of studies
out there that demonstrate that kind of ratio.
Senator Munson: Mr. Chair, this is very troubling testimony this
morning. I am wondering, for the record: Have we had the minister or people
in senior positions at Correctional Service of Canada before us on this
The Chair: No. This is for us more exploratory, looking at
different issues. This is not a study we are doing; it is more exploratory.
Senator Munson: Perhaps it should be, because there are so many
questions that should be answered by the minister.
The Chair: I am sure your representative on the steering committee
can bring that forward. It will be a great discussion.
Senator Munson: It would be, because there is some responsibility
In preparing for your testimony his morning, I was looking at some of the
statistical evidence. I took a look at some of the material online from CSC.
It cited statistics that appeared, in my opinion, alarmingly out of date, in
some cases a decade or more.
Tracking the progress of services for Aboriginal offenders from year to
year, at least from the public's perception, is difficult to ascertain. Some
of this goes back 10 years. What is your take on monitoring and statistical
analysis conducted by CSC on services offered, success and failure rates of
the programs, and action plans, specifically for Aboriginal incarceration in
this country? In your view, do they adequately track and record the trends
on special demographics of incarcerated Aboriginal Canadians and CSC
programs for them? I see that some of them on elders go back to 1994 to
1999. How up to date are we here? Statistics do not lie.
Mr. Sapers: The Correctional Service of Canada does an
increasingly better job of accounting, if I can put it that way, so we know
more about who it is that is inside. We have a better picture of the
profile, of the demographics of our carceral population. There has been a
lot of effort in the last few years, for example, on increasing the ability
of the service to screen for mental health needs and do better computerized
assessment on that.
We also have a pretty good process in place in the Correctional Service
of Canada in terms of evaluating what are known as criminogenic factors, or
establishing the basis for a correctional plan, so that addresses a number
of issues that are specific to the individual offender, regardless of their
heritage: their needs in regard to relationships, employment, addiction or
substance abuse, et cetera.
Where CSC has a more difficult time is in analyzing all of that
information that it collects and making sense of it in terms of informing
management decisions and then evaluating some of the very good work they do
on a consistent and ongoing basis to ensure that the program interventions,
et cetera, are doing what they are supposed to do.
CSC has a small research unit, a small evaluation unit, a small internal
audit operation and a performance assurance unit. Collectively, these
elements feed information to the management table, but by necessity it is
selective. It is driven by priorities and it varies over time. It also
reflects, of course, their capacity. The Correctional Service of Canada has
faced some significant challenges — huge growth and a huge capital program —
at the same time as significant budget cuts. They have their challenges. It
comes as no surprise that some of the statistics you would see online will
Ms. Kingsley: I do not know if you are aware, but twice a year,
CSC's Aboriginal Initiatives Directorate publishes a number of statistics on
progress made in the midst of a strategic plan on Aboriginal correctional
services. They have numbers on population profile, section 81 and 84
programs, conditional release and revocation. I know that is available
online, and I believe the last numbers are for 2011-12.
Senator Munson: Big Brother is always listening in Ottawa, and I
am sure there are bureaucrats and ministers — maybe not the ministers so
much, who are very busy — listening to your testimony this morning. We sit
as a committee that hopefully, in some small way, tries to make a difference
in the lives of people we represent on this committee. Of all your
recommendations — since someone is listening and taking notes on this and
should be paying attention to what I find painfully troubling testimony
about what is happening in our prisons and the lack of Aboriginal
representation from the elders on the parole board, those kinds of people,
the liaison, the business you talked about in communities, one for one and
44 institutions — which one stands out for you that we can hopefully
represent, through our opposition and government members, to senior
bureaucrats and the minister?
Mr. Sapers: Thank you, senator. In my opening comments, I pointed
to a small constellation of five issues that I think have urgent and
priority status. I hesitate to say that there is just one that would be any
kind of a magic bullet here. Certainly we have made a point of repeating our
recommendation for several years now for the need to appoint a deputy
commissioner for Aboriginal issues; however, that, in and of itself, is not
enough. Some of the training, funding and capacity issues that we speak to
in Spirit Matters need to be addressed at exactly the same time;
otherwise we would just have a figurehead, and I do not think we need that.
The five issues I addressed in my opening comments — the deputy
commissioner, the at-parity funding, the training initiatives, the workload
and other barriers and obstacles faced by elders, and the amount of just
confusion and red tape around section 84 — those need to happen in concert
and we believe collectively would make a big difference.
Senator Patterson: Mr. Sapers, I understand there are eight healing lodges, four CSC and
four Aboriginal operated. Could you outline, please, where they are, and
perhaps if you know which culture they reflect?
Mr. Sapers: Sure. I can certainly answer the first part easily. I
will reference first page 23 of the Spirit Matters report, where
there is a table that shows the CSC-operated healing lodges. The Okimaw Ohci
Healing Lodge, the Willow Cree Healing Lodge, the Pê Sâkâstêw Centre healing
lodge and Kwìkwèxwelhp Healing Village are operated by the Correctional
Service of Canada. Those lodges operate under section 81.
Senator Patterson: Could you give the geographic location, please?
Mr. Sapers: Sure. The Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge is in
Saskatchewan; the Pê Sâkâstêw Centre is in Alberta; Kwìkwèxwelhp Healing
Village is in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia; and Willow Cree Healing
Centre is in Saskatchewan. Those are operated by Correctional Service
There is a spiritual healing lodge operated under section 81 in Prince
Albert; the Ochichakkosipi First Nation Healing Lodge is in the Prairies;
the Stan Daniels Healing Centre is in downtown Edmonton; and the Waseskun
Healing Centre is in Quebec.
Senator Patterson: Thank you. It seems just astonishing to me that
you have the four CSC-operated lodges — and I am sure they are probably
different sizes — that are spending $21.5 million on four of their own
institutions. The other four, the Aboriginal-operated lodges, are getting
$4.8 million — roughly a quarter of the cost.
I was compelled by what you said about the 44 Nunavut inmates, who I am
sure were all Inuit, who were eligible for Aboriginal healing lodge release.
There is a significant difference, culturally, between Indian, Dene, Metis
and the Inuit. There is a different language, economy and history. I am not
surprised and I am even not sure that the Inuit inmates would have fit in a
First Nations healing lodge. With all respect to those lodges, but
sweetgrass and sweat lodges would not work in that it is igloos and not
sweat lodges for the Inuit; they do not have resonance.
Would you have any recommendations about how you change the funding
support for Aboriginal-run healing lodges? They just do not have the money
to attract or train the workers. How could that be fixed?
Mr. Sapers: Let me answer the second question first and then go
back to your first point. We recommend in the report that at-parity funding
be established. If the Correctional Service Canada establishes that it costs
a certain amount per year to operate a healing lodge bed, then that amount
of money should be made available to an Aboriginal community to operate that
bed. It is clear that their own structures are better resourced than those
operated by Aboriginal communities under section 81.
We are also talking about a reallocation of resources, so we are not
talking about new money. I do not believe that the Correctional Service
Canada needs new funding for this. These are people under sentence to a CSC
facility in any case. We are talking about transferring where their custody
takes place. We actually think it can be done in a more cost-efficient way
in the community through section 81. Section 81, by the way, does not
require large-scale facilities; it is possible to have section 81 beds
established in small and remote communities, supervised by communities, so
you do not need to think of it as a bricks-and-mortar kind of a response.
Let me be clear that we are not talking about millions of new dollars
coming into CSC to do this; we are talking about implementing the plan as it
was envisaged 20 years ago. In large measure, the resources are in place.
When you talk about the North and the differences in Aboriginal
communities across the country, you raise profoundly important matters. There
are no healing lodges in the North. Earlier I gave testimony about the lack
of section 84 participation, at least in Nunavut. We do not have any
opportunities for section 81 beds in Labrador, northern Quebec, Northwest
Territories or in Nunavut. There are some unique challenges to providing
those kinds of opportunities in the North, but they can be overcome.
Currently, there are 30 Inuit offenders from Nunavut who are serving
their custody in the Northwest Territories. There are 40 who are
provincially sentenced or who are serving sentences of less than two years;
there are 40 Inuit offenders from Nunavut shipped off to Ontario
correctional centres to serve their sentences away from their home
communities. Most important for our discussion this morning, there are 85
federally sentenced Inuit offenders from Nunavut who are serving their
sentence in Correctional Service Canada facilities, primarily the Fenbrook
Institution in Ontario.
Nunavut Corrections operates a primary facility in Iqaluit called the
Baffin Correctional Centre, which, depending on which point in its history
you want to look at, had a design capacity for either 48 or 50, or up to 66.
I think today's count is slightly under 100 in that facility. It is
shamefully overcrowded. It is literally falling apart and bursting at the
Nunavut has identified the replacement of this facility as a priority.
Granted, that is a territorial matter, not a federal one. However, to give
you some idea, their own estimates are that they will need 300 in-custody
beds by 2027, and that is just to deal with those who are receiving
sentences of less than two years. If the trends continue, the number of
federally sentenced Inuit from Nunavut will increase apace.
Before both orders of government commit massive funds to building more
traditional custodial capacity, we think it would be very important to
explore opportunities to take advantage of things like section 81 in the
CCRA and to see whether there can be some other options. It is probably not
just one choice, because what might make sense in Labrador might not be
exactly appropriate for Nunavut.
There are some big issues in the North. Over 20 years, CSC has not been
able to provide this kind of opportunity in Northern Canada.
The Chair: I have a supplemental question, if I may, Mr. Sapers. I
visited the facility in Iqaluit, as you know. In fact, I have been back and
forth to that facility for 20 years. It has gone from a temporary facility
to a permanent facility, and to a permanent facility that is embarrassing to
see in this country. I think you would probably agree with that term. The
gymnasium there now is temporary bedding with mats on the floor, for
There are 202 federal Inuit prisoners as of last fall outside of Nunavut;
it is my understanding that they are somewhere else in the country.
Has there been any dialogue about looking at a demographic facility for
incarcerated Inuit rather than a geographic provincial, territorial or
federal facility? Is there is any consideration of one joint facility that
would look at the Inuit population and the cultural, linguistic, different
challenges that the Inuit face — perhaps a little bit exclusive of their
crime or what they have been sentenced for — that you know of? You talk
about options. Is this one of the options?
Mr. Sapers: In fact, there have been discussions about such a
pan-Arctic facility that would not be rooted in political geography, but
rooted in culture. There has also been discussion about the need to maintain
small local responses. Somewhere between those two end points is probably
where we are going to end up.
In the conversations I have been privy to and in the material I have
reviewed, I think everyone agrees that the status quo is not appropriate —
simply shipping people south, taking people far away from home communities,
support. For some of these folks, the difference between where they come
from and where they have been sent to is worse than night and day. The
status quo is not appropriate, but I do not think there is consensus on the
matter you raise specifically. I think that is probably the best way to put
it. It could be that a combination of approaches would work. You would have
to get together with a number of governments to build a pan-Arctic capacity.
In the meantime, I know, for example, that the Nunavut government is
planning on going ahead with replacing Baffin Correctional. The option of a
combination of responses, for example, having section 81 agreements in
northern Quebec and small section 81 agreements in place in Nunavut and
Labrador, may be the way to start. It could be that operationally we need to
think of it in terms of a cultural response, but organizationally it could
still happen. Section 81 contemplates agreements with communities, not with
governments. You could still have those individual agreements in place with
specific communities, but it could be part of a cultural strategy
that would be appropriate to the North.
I think it is fair to say that the major focus I have heard in my
conversations with northern Canadians many times is simply, "Bring our
people home." If they are going to heal and deal with their conflict with
the law, they need to do that at home. That seems to be the one thing that
The Chair: Ms. Kingsley, I think about a decade ago there was a
report on victim-offender reconciliation or a restorative justice done by
corrections on the recidivism rates by offenders. Victim-offender
reconciliation is extremely difficult, to follow up on Mr. Sapers' comments,
if distance is your biggest challenge.
Do you know of any follow-up work that has been done since 2002 or 2003
on victim offender reconciliation and if so, has it been successful? If there
has not, I will ask someone else.
Ms. Kingsley: Unfortunately, I am not aware. I wish I were from
Justice Canada as I answer this question but —
The Chair: Correctional Services Canada did the report. He was the
leader of CSC in 2003.
Mr. Sapers: It seems to me the National Crime Prevention Centre
may have done something. We will undertake to make that inquiry with the
Parole Board of Canada as well as with Aboriginal elders and we will get
that information to the clerk.
The Chair: I believe your department did a review of Baffin
Correctional Centre on behalf of the Nunavut government. Has that report
Mr. Sapers: No. At the invitation of the local director, we did a
review. It has been completed. It has been provided to the head of
corrections for the territory, but it would be up to them to decide what to
do with it.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Senator Tannas: Thank you. I have a couple of questions. Mr.
Sapers, I heard from you that the existing healing lodges, both those run
under section 81 and by the CSC, are not operating at full capacity. I also
heard you say that while there may be flaws in some of the statistics and
the way in which they were gathered, there was not any evidence of
the effectiveness of this, although I certainly concur that the concerns you
have would be my concerns. On the face of it, we have those two things.
How much of the difficulty that you have expressed here is really around
the fact that the senior leadership at CSC does not believe that this is
effective? Could you comment on that?
Mr. Sapers: I will comment on that. I will not put words in their
mouths. I will say that there is a commitment on the part of the
Correctional Service of Canada to provide culturally appropriate
programming. They commit to that in their Report on Plans and Priorities.
They account for that in their departmental policy reports. It is part of
their framework for Aboriginal corrections and their published strategy.
The evaluation research that I spoke to is equivocal. I have never heard
anyone from the Correctional Service of Canada use that equivocal outcome as
an excuse or reason for not doing what the law contemplates they should be
doing. I have heard people question the evidence and have heard people say,
in times of fiscal restraint, "We have to make sure that every dollar we
spend gets the maximum return, so where is the evidence that this works as
opposed to that?"
Senator, a little secret that I will share with just you, just between us
The Chair: It will not leave this room.
Mr. Sapers: — there is a lot of what we do in corrections that,
strictly speaking, I would not say is tested by the evidence. Teasing out
exactly what works and how and why it works is very difficult in this
endeavour. There is consensus that culturally appropriate interventions are
good. There is consensus that for incarceration to have any positive
benefit, it has to be geared towards release. The point of putting someone
in prison is not to make them a good inmate. The point is to prepare them
for release in the community. If you take those two fundamental things and
put them together, it leads you to some conclusions about individual
responses based to individual needs, which is what Correctional Service of
Canada does when it develops correctional plans for individual offenders.
Part of that must address their culture, particularly since we are informed
by things like the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples that one of the
reasons we see this overrepresentation are historical, economic and social
factors. We have to address that in the administration of the sentence.
That is a long way around addressing your question about the evaluation
and outcomes. In short, no, I have never heard anyone from CSC use the
research as an excuse not to do it. I have heard people question
correctional effectiveness writ large, trying to figure out what works.
Senator Tannas: I have one other question. We have heard a lot
about the disproportionate growth of Aboriginal offenders. Can you talk a
little bit about FASD and what proportion of this growth you are seeing and
what particular programs you have witnessed and their potential
Mr. Sapers: We are just beginning to get a handle on how fetal
alcohol spectrum disorder affects carceral populations, and various
estimates have been done by various researchers. What we know in the
Correctional Service of Canada when we screen at intake for people's mental
health needs, over a third of offenders are screened as needing additional
psychiatric or psychological follow-up. That under counts those people
dealing with brain injury, traumatic brain injury and brain injury resulting
from things like FASD, so we do not have a complete picture.
People experienced in working with these prison populations will tell you
that they are dealing with a population that is overwhelmingly fetal-alcohol
affected. That has impact on their ability to comply with the rigours of
carceral life, such as following rules and taking instruction, et cetera. It
has a big impact, and I do not think we understand it fully.
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: Is there not a section 81 or CSC
facility in New Brunswick?
Mr. Sapers: There are no section 81 facilities in Atlantic Canada.
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: Why is that?
An Hon. Senator: I have the same question.
Mr. Sapers: I do, too, senator.
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: Who would be more likely to be
incarcerated, a First Nations person living in an urban setting or someone
living in a First Nations community?
Mr. Sapers: I am sorry, I do not have an answer. I am not even
sure that this census information can help us, just because of mobility
The Chair: We have heard about the higher incarceration rates
among Aboriginals, and even if you are not the likely candidate for this
question, you are in front of me. If we have the same number of people
investigated, charged and entering into a court system, are Aboriginals more
likely to be convicted and sentenced to federal prison time versus
Mr. Sapers: The only answer that I can give you is my quick
reading of a report that was released very recently, authored by former
Justice Iacobucci, on the experience of Aboriginal Canadians in the Ontario
justice system. He found evidence of systemic discrimination that resulted
in higher convictions, more guilty pleas, and raised issues around jury
trials as well and the ability to be truly judged by a jury of your peers in
terms of jury composition.
His report is the latest in a string of reports over many years that have
identified issues related to systemic discrimination that has resulted in
differential outcomes in our justice system for Aboriginal Canadians when
compared to non-Aboriginal Canadians.
My conclusion from all of that is there is a whole host of factors. I had
a police executive in a prairie city in Canada explain to me the challenge
that they have. The good news is they were putting police resource
officers in schools to assist in a number of areas. The bad news is that
that, in combination with zero tolerance policies in the school related to
certain activities, resulted in more Aboriginal youth in schools being
charged with offences. That then begins that whole process of those young
people coming into conflict with the law and having those records, that
stigma, et cetera.
The challenge expressed to me by this police leader was, "How do we do
our job?' If the job is defined by enforcing the law based on a zero
tolerance policy by the school board, what is the role of a resource officer
and how does that translate into what is going on in this particular city's
The Chair: Seeing no other questions, I want to thank both of you
for being here today. It was an excellent presentation. It is a difficult
topic for some of us, but it was a great dialogue and I appreciate the time
that you both took. Thank you very much.
(The committee adjourned.)