WINNIPEG -- The Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. (MKO) is calling on the Government of Canada to implement changes to lower the incarceration rates of Indigenous people, after a report shows they account for a disproportionate amount of the inmate population.

On Tuesday, the Office of the Correctional Investigator of Canada shared a news release stating that, though Indigenous people make up about five per cent of the Canadian population, they account for more than 30 per cent of the federal inmate population. The report also said Indigenous women make up 42 per cent of the female inmate population.

“The Indigenization of Canada’s prison population is nothing short of a national travesty,” said correctional investigator Ivan Zinger.

In the release, Zinger said Correctional Service of Canada needs to make changes in order to end the influx of Indigenous inmates, prepare Indigenous offenders to meet the earliest parole eligibility dates, and safely return offenders to their home communities.

"Reforms of this nature will require a significant and proportional realignment of CSC priorities and resources. The government of Canada needs to lead and direct these efforts," he said.

The correctional investigator, federal commissions and parliamentary committees are now calling on the government to: transfer resources and responsibility to Indigenous communities to care for and supervise Indigenous offenders; appoint a deputy minister for Indigenous corrections; make culturally-relevant correction programs more available; and create a clearer and more robust role for elders.


On Tuesday the MKO released a statement showing support for the correctional investigator’s calls for change.

“It is not surprising that the percentage of Indigenous inmates continues to grow as First Nations citizens face systemic discrimination from the day they are born. We call on the Government of Canada to take meaningful action on a number of issues now to reduce the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples that is occurring within our justice system,” said MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee.

Settee urges leaders to work with the MKO to devise a culturally-responsive approach, noting there is a need to review and overhaul the restorative justice policies and programs in northern Manitoba. 

“First Nations in Manitoba absolutely need to see action on this matter,” said Settee. “I want to thank Mr. Zinger for calling it like it is, which is a most persistent and pressing human rights issue and nothing short of a national travesty.”

- With files from The Canadian Press' Jim Bronskill.