First Nations Governments Urge Inclusion in Correctional Services Discussions

The James Smith Cree Nation (JSCN), along with the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), continues to advocate for inclusion in discussions regarding Correctional Services Canada (CSC) and the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) decision-making processes, following their exclusion from the preparation of a recent report and recommendations.

“We’re disappointed Canada chose to conduct an investigation and make recommendations focused on Indigenous inmates without us,” expressed James Smith Cree Nation Chief Wally Burns. “That speaks volumes to us when one of our band members was the perpetrator, and it’s our people who died in the massacre. We don’t want any other community to experience the loss of life we did.”

Earlier this year, a Saskatchewan Coroners Service inquest found JSCN band member Myles Sanderson responsible for the deaths of 11 people and the injury of 17 others in a mass stabbing attack on September 4, 2022.

JSCN and the FSIN Justice Department leaders met with CSC and PBC on Monday, March 11, 2024, in Saskatoon to discuss the National Joint Board of Internal Investigation Report (BOI). However, JSCN received the 160-page BOI report only one clear business day before the meeting, leaving little time for a thorough review.

“The exclusion of First Nations government contravenes the whole premise of reconciliation and the Government of Canada’s Action Plan to implement the principle of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (UNDRIP),” stated Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations. “Statistics show that about 80 percent of inmates in the prairie region are Indigenous, so it’s insulting to us that input from our people wasn’t included.”

Despite being completed in 2023, CSC and PBC chose to keep the report for use in the Saskatchewan Coroners Service inquests, and their lawyers objected to questions about the report during the inquests.

JSCN also learned on March 11 that CSC and PBC had developed a plan to implement the BOI recommendations without collaboration with JSCN.

JSCN now urges Canada to collaborate with its government to implement recommendations from the Saskatchewan Coroners Service inquests in a cooperative process. 

JSCN seeks reforms such as the direct involvement of First Nations governments prior to the release of offenders from their communities and the establishment of on-reserve aftercare programs and short-term sober-living accommodations for individuals exiting jails and prisons.

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