(xwməθkwəy̓ əm/Musqueam Territory, Prince George, BC – Jan. 23, 2020) – Regional Chief Terry Teegee presented at the First Ministers Meeting on Justice and Public Safety in Victoria, BC to a receptive audience. He noted the stark contrast between the honest commitment to legal reform in the justice system and on-the-ground failure that is occurring in Canada’s increasing incarceration rates of Indigenous Peoples. The Regional Chief is demanding immediate action on correctional justice reforms for First Nations in British Columbia and Canada in response to the recent release of Canada’s Correctional Investigator, Ivan Zinger’s, report. Indigenous men and women are being imprisoned at a rate that is now surpassing 30 per cent, even though Indigenous people make up less than 5 per cent of the total Canadian population. Indigenous women account for a shocking 42 per cent of the women inmate population. Despite previous alarms on the issue of Indigenous incarcerations in Canada raised over and over again for many years, the rates have continued to increase and are now at a staggering and shameful level.
“Racism and apathy within the Canadian justice system and correctional institutions must be confronted and reversed immediately. Too many Indigenous lives and souls are lost to prisons. Reconciliation words are meaningless when incarceration rates almost double. This is a shame on all Canadians, but we have no choice but to rise to this challenge for our Peoples. For this reason, I stand in complete support of approaches such as the BC First Nations Justice Council’s strategy. It is a constructive path and it is one where the Indigenous Peoples walk as constitutional partners. We must accept that the status quo is failing us all and have the humility to embrace constructive change.” stated Regional Chief Terry Teegee.
A key action to reversing the incarceration trend is the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into federal legislation. The declaration includes articles affirming the right of Indigenous peoples to create their own social systems and participate in all decision-making that affects their interests. Indigenous responsibility, control and resources for laws and justice in their own communities will begin to break down the immense task of over-incarceration.
The British Columbia Assembly of First Nations (BCAFN) is a Provincial Territorial Organization (PTO) representing the 203 First Nations in British Columbia. BCAFN representation is inclusive and extends to First Nations currently engaged in the treaty process, those who have signed modern treaties, and those who fall under historic treaty agreements which include the Douglas Treaties and Treaty 8.
For further information, contact:
Regional Chief Terry Teegee, phone (250)981-2151, BC Assembly of First Nations.