In Our Own Words
That the Canadian justice system is failing Indigenous people is plain to see. Indigenous women are vastly over-represented in the prison population overall and systemic bias is clearly visible in custodial sentencing patterns. What is less immediately visible are the upstream and downstream forces contributing to the social determinants of health and of justice for Canada’s Indigenous peoples.
Women’s prisons are places of despair and depression. They are are a continuation of the harm perpetrated by the residential school system and many of the schools’ children and grandchildren are incarcerated now because of violence, substance abuse and crime that is related to the destruction of their families by these very schools. Prisons further break down family life and exacerbate the cycle of poverty, crime and violence both on and off the reserves. Upon release, we see the same marks of the residential schools: Indigenous people marginalized, cut off from their families and culture, and broken families in an uphill challenge to be reunited. Indigenous women’s journeys out of the corrections system are stories of resilience, strength, and determined self-actualization.