One thing we love to do collectively as Canadians is to bury our heads in the sand when we don’t like the realities of issues and policies around us. We implement simplistic feel-good policies that may have the best of intentions and viciously protect these policies from all attempts by people who may want to inject a dose of reality into them. If somebody dares to question these flakey policies, inevitably they will be accused of supporting whatever ill these policies were created to ease.
I will start by laying out the vapid and inevitable response I will get for touching on the issue of native incarceration rates:
Oh so you are OK with the gross over representation of natives in our prisons!
There. Now I will begin by responding that I am indeed not at all happy with the disproportionate number of natives incarcerated in Canada. What I am even more unhappy about is our continued support of countless initiatives in alternative sentencing based on race when they are so clearly a catastrophic failure.
Since the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples wrapped up nearly 20 years ago, our justice system has been scrambling to find ways to reduce the aboriginal incarceration rate in Canada. All sorts of resources and time have been directed towards training judges and instructing them directly to take “indianess”: into account when sentencing. “Sentencing circles” have been created for natives to try and avoid conventional courts. Countless healing lodges have been opened and maintained throughout Canada.
Despite all of these efforts to avoid sentencing natives to jail; Aboriginal incarceration rates have doubled in the last 20 years! While natives make up about 4% of Canada’s population, they currently make up over 23% of our prison population.
The image below from Statistics Canada rather starkly lays out just how badly all of these initiatives are failing. How colossal must a legislative failure get before we re-examine the base principles of the legislation?
Yes, we must examine and address the issue of aboriginal incarceration in Canada. I think we can pretty clearly conclude at this point though that the issue is not in our courts or sentencing. To reach that conclusion though a person does have to set aside the intent of those policies and look objectively at how they are doing.
Race based policy is what led to the separated, miserable and dysfunctional native cultures in Canada. Despite that hard reality, people still insist on trying to fix this problem with even more race based policy. As has been covered here before: the reserve system is a failure by every possible measure! Crime is certainly no exception among these measures.
The reason that such a higher number of natives end up in our prisons is not that our courts are sentencing natives incorrectly, it is that natives are committing a disproportionately higher number of crimes in Canada. That is an ugly reality to face but it has to be done if we ever hope to solve some of these issues.
We must look deeper than our court system. When a native finds him/herself before a judge, the damage has already been done. What we need to look at is what drives such a high number of natives to crime. When we look at things that way, things get more simple yet complex at the same time.
The cause of the problem is actually very simple. Canada has a system of entrenched racial apartheid in reserves that is fostered and served by the racist Indian Act. As long as we keep people separated physically and legislatively from the rest of the world based on race, we will have the culture of misery and dependency that we see now. Crime is simply one of the many issues erupting from this sick system.
The solution is more complex. The reserve system and the Indian Act must both be abolished. To get there we need more people to pay attention to the devastation that our system of apartheid is creating and we need people prepared to battle the entrenched parasites in the Indian Industry who will fight tooth and nail to protect their self-interest in the system. The Indian Industry is loaded with high-level bureaucrats, scads of lawyers and countless “consultants” who bleed millions and millions from the entire native system. These people will not let their lucrative schemes built on the backs of natives go easily. Cries of racism, lawsuits and idiotic “scholarly” papers will be released in hopes of maintaining this status quo of native misery. It will take some tough legislators to face that down but it must happen eventually.
We need to look at all of our laws and systems with a critical eye. Set aside the intent that built these institutions and ask yourself: “is this working?”. When it comes to native affairs, most often the answer is a resounding “no”. Once we stop with the clearly proven failures in policy, we may have a chance to work towards some policy that actually works.
Good intent is nice but it really doesn’t get us anywhere on it’s own.