Indigenous Legal Issues...

  • August 01, 2017

Correctional Service of Canada’s Failing Report Card:
Misconceptions that Lengthier
Prison Sentences Contribute to the Rehabilitation of Indigenous Offenders

How often has defence counsel heard sentencing judges utter the words “these circumstances warrant a sentence in the federal range to ensure that this (Indigenous) offender has access to the necessary programs and services that will aid in their rehabilitation?” The degree to which the Correctional Service of Canada (“CSC”) is able to meet its rehabilitative mandate respecting Indigenous offenders has been the subject of much criticism. Several reports implicate the CSC as failing in its legislative mandate to offer Indigenous offenders culturally appropriate and timely access to rehabilitative programs. This failure then serves as an impediment to the successful and timely reintegration of Indigenous offenders into the community. Collectively, these failures exacerbate the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in our jails counter to the Supreme Court of Canada’s direction in R v. Gladue and R v. Ipeelee. Further public safety and the concept of “safer streets” is also put in jeopardy. In a recent decision, R. v. Taylor, The Honourable Judge Cozens rejected the notion of imposing lengthier sentences for rehabilitative purposes. He said that this proposition “relies on the assumption that such programming is actually going to be provided in a meaningful and constructive manner.” Therefore, when arguing against the imposition of jail or lengthier sentences for Indigenous offenders, it will be helpful for counsel to keep the following armory in their toolbox: