[version française ci-dessous]
May 22nd 2020
Statement on Policing the Pandemic
We have received disturbing reports from CAEFS’ local member societies of an increase in punitive law enforcement for supposed failures to adhere to physical distancing guidelines. This expansion of police power to serve COVID-19 related fines and /or to detain people is harming and further criminalizing already marginalized – often poor— communities, many of whom are the least able to practice the physical distancing measures that are being suggested.
Responding from a place of punishment, rather than addressing need fails to consider the unfairness of the instructions to ‘stay at home’… and if home means no access to outdoor space? If home is a shelter that you are told to leave during the day?
Fining hundreds of dollars to those who cannot afford to pay, in a time when money is already more scarce than usual – or confining people in close quarters as a punishment for not being far enough apart – will not lessen the impact of COVID-19, and will only serve to exacerbate the existing issues of inequity. Policing cannot be the way to respond to a public health crisis, and it never has been.
In addition, we must recognize that racialized communities are already disproportionately surveilled by law enforcement. When a community is already under surveillance, any perceived infraction is more likely to be noted and acted upon resulting in an excessive and unequal number of fines issued and/or people detained.
A response that fails to account for inequities is bound to leave us with an ‘equal’ rather than an equitable result. A response that is rooted in punishment, will do little to keep us safe. We need guidelines that are rooted in dignity, humanity, and mutual care.
In order to keep each other safe from COVID-19, we need to invest in our communities and look out for one another, rather than relying on systems of punishment.
For more on policing the pandemic, check out:
22 mai 2020
Déclaration sur la surveillance de la pandémie
Nous avons reçu des rapports inquiétants des sociétés locales membres de l’ACSEF faisant état de renforcement de l’application de la loi punitive pour des manquements supposés aux lignes directives sur l’éloignement physique. Cette extension des pouvoirs de la police pour infliger des amendes liées à la COVID-19 et/ou pour détenir des personnes nuit et criminalise davantage des communautés déjà marginalisées – souvent pauvres -, dont beaucoup sont les moins aptes à pratiquer les mesures d’éloignement physique qui sont suggérées.
Répondre depuis un lieu de punition, plutôt que de répondre à un besoin, ne tient pas compte de l’injustice des instructions de “rester à la maison”… et si la maison signifie ne pas avoir accès à l’espace extérieur? Si la maison est un abri que l’on vous dit de quitter pendant la journée?
Donner des amendes de plusieurs centaines de dollars à ceux qui n’ont pas les moyens de payer, à une époque où l’argent est déjà plus rare que d’habitude – ou enfermer les gens dans des espaces restreints en guise de punition pour ne pas être assez éloignés – n’atténuera pas l’impact de COVID-19, et ne fera qu’exacerber les problèmes d’iniquité existants. La police ne peut pas être le moyen de répondre à une crise de santé publique, et elle ne l’a jamais été.
En outre, nous devons reconnaître que les communautés racialisées sont déjà surveillées de manière disproportionnée par les forces de l’ordre. Lorsqu’une communauté est déjà sous surveillance, toute infraction perçue est plus susceptible d’être remarquée et de donner lieu à des mesures, ce qui se traduit par un nombre excessif et inégal d’amendes infligées et/ou de personnes détenues.
Une réponse qui ne tient pas compte des inégalités ne peut que nous laisser avec un résultat “égal” plutôt qu’équitable. Une réponse fondée sur la sanction ne contribuera guère à notre sécurité. Nous avons besoin de lignes directrices qui qui se basent sur la dignité, l’humanité, et l’entraide.
Afin de se protéger mutuellement contre COVID-19, nous devons investir dans nos communautés et veiller les uns sur les autres, plutôt que de nous reposer sur des systèmes de punition.
Pour en savoir plus sur la surveillance de la pandémie, consultez:
[version française ci-dessous]
For Immediate Release
May 7th 2020
Re: Former Correctional Officer at the Nova Institution for Women Arrested on Charges of Sexual Assault Against Prisoners
Today, The Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (CAEFS) – along with the Atlantic Elizabeth Fry Societies – have learned that a former Correctional Officer at the Nova Institution for Women was arrested and charged with 6 counts of sexual assault, 6 counts of breach of trust, and 1 count of trying to procure sexual service – all related to his work at the Institution. This arrest comes over a year after multiple prisoners at the Nova Institution for Women came forward to tell their experiences of being sexually assaulted by this Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) Correctional Officer.
A year ago, these women filed a lawsuit, with the support of the Atlantic Elizabeth Fry Societies seeking justice for themselves, but also change for all incarcerated women.
Emma Halpern, Executive Director of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Mainland Nova Scotia, states: “The women who launched these lawsuits suffered egregious harm at the hands of a predator who operated without reprisal, for many years, within one of our government institutions. These women reported the abuse to authorities at Nova and were ignored, transferred and made to apologize for the harms perpetrated against them. This is a clear example of the way prisons fail to keep women safe and highlights the need for women to be out of prison and receiving supportive programs in community.”
Prisons are not – and never will be – safe places, as by their very nature, prisons are violent and oppressive institutions. For years, CAEFS has been calling attention to how the power structures inherent to the prisons make those held inside incredibly vulnerable to abuse by CSC employees. This is particularly concerning for incarcerated women as most of them have experienced abuse prior to their prison sentence, including sexual abuse, and have extensive histories of trauma which is further perpetuated through their experience of incarceration. A clear example of this – and one that CAEFS has repeatedly advocated against – is CSC’s policy of routine strip searches, which is a form of state sanctioned sexual violence.
The sexual abuse experienced by the women who have come forward from the Nova Institution for Women is egregious. Now, during the COVID-19 crisis, with visits prohibited and significantly reduced access to external accountability mechanisms, there is less oversight than ever within CSC institutions, making prisoners even more vulnerable to all forms of abuse.
“Eliminating strip searching; ensuring that incarcerated people can readily access external counselling and treatment options for trauma and abuse; an increase in oversight and accountability mechanisms of and for CSC – all these should be implemented immediately; however, reforming a violent system can only take us so far in preventing the abuse of vulnerable women. Rather than incarcerating women, we need to invest in building safe and supportive communities” – Emilie Coyle, Executive Director of CAEFS
– ENDS –
Emma Halpern, CAEFS Regional Advocate and Executive Director at the Elizabeth Fry Society of Mainland Nova Scotia
Emilie Coyle, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies
Pour diffusion immédiate
7 mai 2020
Re : Ancien agent correctionnel de l’Institution Nova pour femmes arrêtées pour agression sexuelle sur des prisonniers
Aujourd’hui, l’Association canadienne des sociétés Elizabeth Fry (ACSEF) – ainsi que les sociétés Elizabeth Fry de l’atlantique – ont appris qu’un ancien agent correctionnel de l’Institution Nova pour femmes a été arrêté et accusé de 6 chefs d’accusation d’agression sexuelle, 6 chefs d’accusation d’abus de confiance et 1 chef d’accusation de tentative de procurer des services sexuels – tous liés à son travail à l’Institution. Cette arrestation survient plus d’un an après que de nombreux prisonniers de l’Institution Nova pour les femmes se sont présentées pour raconter leur expérience d’agression sexuelle par cet agent correctionnel du service correctionnel du Canada (SCC).
Il y a un an, ces femmes ont intenté une poursuite contre CSC, avec le soutien des Sociétés Elizabeth Fry de l’Atlantique, pour obtenir justice pour elles-mêmes, mais aussi un changement pour toutes les femmes incarcérées.
Emma Halpern, directrice exécutive de la Société Elizabeth Fry de la Nouvelle-Écosse continentale, déclare “Les femmes qui ont intenté ces poursuites ont subi un préjudice énorme aux mains d’un prédateur qui a opéré sans représailles, pendant de nombreuses années, au sein de l’une de nos institutions gouvernementales. Ces femmes ont signalé les abus aux autorités de Nova et ont été ignorées, transférées et obligées de s’excuser pour les préjudices subis. C’est un exemple clair de la façon dont les prisons ne parviennent pas à assurer la sécurité des femmes et cela met en évidence la nécessité pour les femmes de sortir de prison et de bénéficier de programmes de soutien dans la communauté”.
Les prisons ne sont pas – et ne seront jamais – des lieux sûrs, car de par leur nature même, les prisons sont des institutions violentes et oppressives. Depuis des années, l’ACSEF attire l’attention sur la façon dont les structures de pouvoir inhérentes aux prisons rendent les personnes détenues à l’intérieur incroyablement vulnérables aux abus des employés du SCC.
Ceci est particulièrement préoccupant pour les femmes incarcérées car la plupart d’entre elles ont subi des abus avant leur peine de prison, y compris des abus sexuels, et ont un long passé de traumatisme qui se perpétue encore à travers leur expérience d’incarcération. Un exemple clair de cela – et un contre lequel l’ACSEF a plaidé à plusieurs reprises – est la politique du SCC de fouilles à nu de routine, qui est une forme de violence sexuelle sanctionnée par l’État.
Les abus sexuels subis par les femmes qui se sont présentées à l’Institution Nova pour femmes sont flagrants. Maintenant, pendant la crise COVID-19, avec des visites interdites et un accès considérablement réduit aux mécanismes de responsabilité externes, il y a moins de surveillance que jamais au sein des institutions du SCC. Cela rend les détenus encore plus vulnérables à toutes les formes d’abus.
“L’élimination de la fouille à nu, l’accès des personnes incarcérées à des conseils et à des traitements externes pour les traumatismes et les abus, l’augmentation des mécanismes de surveillance et de responsabilité du SCC et pour le SCC- tout cela devrait être mis en œuvre immédiatement ; cependant, la réforme d’un système violent ne peut que nous amener à prévenir les abus envers les femmes vulnérables. Plutôt que d’incarcérer les femmes, nous devons investir dans la construction de communautés sûres et solidaires” – Emilie Coyle, directrice générale de l’ACSEF
– FIN –
Pour les commentaires :
Emma Halpern, avocate régionale de l’ACSEF et directrice générale de la Société Elizabeth Fry de la Nouvelle-Écosse continentale
Courriel : firstname.lastname@example.org
Téléphone : 902-221-5851
Emilie Coyle, directrice générale de l’Association canadienne des sociétés Elizabeth Fry
Courriel : email@example.com
Téléphone : 613-316-6785
[version française ci-dessous]
May 6th 2020
For Immediate Release
Re: Elizabeth Fry Week 2020 – Build Communities, Not Prison _____________________________________________________________________________
Each year, The Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (CAEFS) celebrates National Elizabeth Fry Week during the week leading up Mother’s Day (this year, May 4th to 10th). The goal is to enhance public awareness and education around criminalized and vulnerable women in Canada.
We continue to mark this week as Elizabeth Fry Week because the majority of women in prison are mothers. For most of these women, they were the sole supporters of their families at the time they were incarcerated. When mothers are sentenced to prison, their children are sentenced to separation. We draw attention to this reality by ending Elizabeth Fry Week on Mother’s Day each year.
This year’s theme is ‘Build Communities, Not Prisons’, and we plan to use this week to put a spotlight on the amazing community building work that all of the locals do –before, during, and after COVID-19 – because we know that the only real alternative to prisons are thriving communities.
During the 2019 fiscal year, our local societies – and their combined staff of nearly 700 – collectively
This is also a time to imagine what a thriving community may look like when we emerge from the current pandemic. This crisis has exposed serious flaws and gaps our existing systems. It has become glaringly obvious that we need to create a new way of operating- one that reflects the vital lessons we have been learning about how we are all able to contribute to collective safety and care.
While we would usually be hosting events during Elizabeth Fry Week, we are instead responding to our current context by using social media to engage the public to imagine with us, by finishing the sentences below:
A thriving community needs…
When I dream of a world without prisons, I imagine…
Responses will be collected and shared using the hashtags #EFryWeek2020, #BuildCommunitiesNotPrisons, and #ImagineAWorldWithoutPrisons.
“I am hopeful that, through this crisis, we can begin to move toward a practical organizing of our communities where no one is left behind. We need communities that create opportunities for transformative justice. Communities that recognize the harm caused by our colonial past and embark on true and active reconciliation with Indigenous nations. Communities that place a priority on dismantling oppression in all of its forms and build a more just future for everyone”. Emilie Coyle, Executive Director of CAEFS
In a time when there is so much uncertainty, we look forward to making this week one that is centered on hope and imagination, working together to envision the communities we need.
– ENDS –
For further information or to contact CAEFS for comment please contact Executive Director (Emilie Coyle) at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (613) 316-6785.
6 mai 2020
Pour diffusion immediate
Re: La semaine d’ Elizabeth Fry 2020 : Bâtir des Communautés, Non des Prisons
Chaque année, l’Association Canadienne des Sociétés Elizabeth Fry (ACSEF) célèbre la semaine nationale Elizabeth Fry pendant la semaine précédant la fête des mères (cette année, du 4 au 10 mai). L’objectif est d’améliorer la sensibilisation et l’éducation du public au sujet des femmes criminalisées et vulnérables au Canada.
Nous continuons de marquer cette semaine comme la Semaine Elizabeth Fry parce que la majorité des femmes en prison sont des mères. Pour la plupart de ces femmes, elles étaient les seuls soutiens de leur famille au moment de leur incarcération. Lorsque des mères sont condamnées à la prison, leurs enfants sont condamnés à la séparation. Nous attirons l’attention sur cette réalité en clôturant la fin chaque année la Semaine Elizabeth Fry le jour de la fête des mères.
Le thème de cette année est « Construire des Communautés et Non des Prisons », et nous comptons utiliser cette semaine pour mettre en exergue le travail extraordinaire de bâtir la communauté fait par les locaux- avant, pendant et après le COVID-19 , car nous savons que la seule alternative véritable aux prisons sont les communautés prospères.
Au cours de l’année fiscale 2019, nos sociétés locales – et leur personnel combiné de près de 700 personnes – ont collectivement servi environ 90 000 clients et leurs bénévoles ont donné plus de 50 000 heures de leur temps.
C’est aussi un moment d’imaginer à quoi pourrait ressembler une communauté prospère lorsque nous allons sortir de la pandémie actuelle. Cette crise a révélé de grands défauts et lacunes dans nos systèmes existants. Il est clairement devenu évident que nous devons créer une nouvelle façon de fonctionner, une façon qui reflète les leçons essentielles que nous avons apprises sur la façon dont nous pouvons tous contribuer à la sécurité collective et aux soins.
Bien que nous organisions habituellement des événements pendant la semaine Elizabeth Fry, nous allons plutôt répondre à notre contexte actuel en utilisant les médias sociaux pour inciter le public à réfléchir avec nous, en terminant les phrases ci-dessous:
Une communauté prospère a besoin de…
Quand je rêve d’un monde sans prison, J’imagine…
Les réponses vont être collectées et partagées a l’aide des hashtags
#La Semaine l’ACSEF 2020,#Batir des Communautés et Non des Prisons, et #ImaginezUnMondeSansPrisons.
«J’espère qu’ à travers cette crise, nous pourrons commencer à évoluer vers une organisation pratique de nos communautés où personne n’est laissé pour compte. Nous avons besoin de communautés qui créent des opportunités pour une justice transformatrice. Des communautés qui reconnaissent les torts causés par notre passé colonial et qui s’engagent dans une véritable et active réconciliation avec les nations autochtones. Des communautés qui accordent une priorité au démantèlement de l’oppression sous toutes ses formes et à la construction d’un avenir plus juste pour tous ». Emilie Coyle, directrice générale de l’ACSEF
À une époque où règne tant d’incertitude, nous avons hâte de faire de cette semaine, une semaine centrée sur l’espoir et l’imagination, en travaillant ensemble pour envisager des communautés dont nous avons besoin.
– FIN –
Pour de plus amples renseignements ou pour communiquer avec l’ACSEF pour commentaires, veuillez contacter la Directrice Générale (Emilie Coyle) à email@example.com ou au (613) 316-6785.
We were so honoured to be able to host Senator Kim Pate and Justice Louise Arbour on Wendesday, April 22nd 2020 for our weekly Facebook Live conversation in partnership with Justice for Soli. During the conversation, Senator Pate referenced a number of resources. You can find them below:
Many thanks again to both Senator Pate and Justice Arbour for joining us!
For Immediate Release
April 18th 2020
Re: Alarming Infection Rates at Joliette Institution for Women
For over 40 years the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (CAEFS) has been advocating with and for federally incarcerated women. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this work has become even more urgent and necessary.
CAEFS is regularly in contact with incarcerated women. During the COVID-19 crisis, our six Regional Advocacy teams across the country, along with our National Office, have each been receiving dozens of phone calls a day from incarcerated women reporting on their conditions of confinement and seeking our advocacy support. This means that we have detailed and up-to-date information from those who are most impacted by the spread of COVID-19 in prisons.
The reports that we receive from people incarcerated in federal women’s prisons are what guide our advocacy efforts as we work on both systemic and individual remedies.
We are raising the alarm about the rate of infection in Joliette Institution for women. The situation there is dire and swift action needs to be taken. On April 7th there were 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19, now there are 50. While the rated capacity of Joliette is 132, there are currently approximately 80 people incarcerated inside – this means that over 60% of prisoners at Joliette have been infected with COVID-19. In fact, these number are likely higher given delays in test results.
The example that Joliette is so sadly demonstrating is that by the very nature of prisons (lack of hygienic environment, impossible to physically distance), once COVID-19 enters into a prison, it is extremely difficult – if not impossible – to stop its rapid spread. This puts an already vulnerable population at even more risk.
We have been told that the Structured Intervention Units (SIU) in Joliette have been used to isolate prisoners who are ill. SIUs are what once were called ‘segregation units’, which is extremely troubling as this means confining people who are sick in ways that are cruel and punishing. This kind of response to managing an infection lacks humanity and any form of dignity. It has also, clearly, proven ineffective in containing the spread.
The Grand Valley Institution for Women currently has 9 confirmed cases and, yesterday, the Fraser Valley Institution for Women reported their first confirmed case of COVID-19. Joliette is an example of where these other institutions may be in a short time.
In most cases, we have been told by prisoners that CSC continues to only test individuals who are symptomatic, which ignores what we know from public health officials about the possibility of asymptomatic carriers.
“CAEFS, along with many others – including doctors, lawyers, other advocacy organizations, and prisoners themselves – have been saying that prisons are dangerous, especially during a pandemic. We have been speaking out about the danger of COVID-19 and demanding immediate and swift action in the federal prison system for weeks. If our calls had been heeded a month ago, this outbreak in Joliette may have been avoided.” Emilie Coyle, Executive Director of CAEFS
All responses to COVID-19 must be grounded in compassion, dignity, and the preservation of human health and life. We need immediate action and the safe release of as many people as possible.
– END –
For more information, or for comment, please contact CAEFS Executive Director, Emilie Coyle.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OTTAWA, SUNDAY, MARCH 15, 2020- COVID-19 & Incarcerated Peoples.
We are currently in the midst of a global outbreak of COVID-19.
As an organization dedicated to advocating for federally incarcerated women, CAEFS is concerned about the Correctional Service of Canada’s (CSC) preparedness to manage this outbreak and reduce the harm to people inside.
While Public Health has indicated that risk is low for the general public, they have identified several groups who are at increased risk of more severe outcomes; these include those who:
These same groups are also prevalent within our federal prisons. In their most recent report, the Office of the Federal Investigator (OCI) noted that on 2017-18, 25.2% of the federally incarcerated population was 50 years of age and over. Previous OCI reports also remind us that is it “universally established that correctional facilities house a number of health-compromised and vulnerable individuals”. The report also addresses the rapid aging of prisoners, making the link between prisoners aged 50-55+ having comparative health risks and those who are 65+ living outside of prisons, due to the overrepresentation of chronic health issues and lack of access to adequate health care.
Furthermore, Public Health has identified the risk of COVID-19 may be increased for certain settings including, “large gatherings in enclosed spaces”. Canadian provincial prisons are chronically overcrowded and both federal and provincial prisons are places where people cannot practice social isolation in the same ways that people outside of prisons can, it is nearly impossible. That all incarcerated people are at increased risk for infection is especially concerning given the past reports we have received from women inside indicating ongoing challenges with accessing adequate health care and preventative health measures inside, including even the most basic of necessities such as soap.
CAEFS advocates that:
Section 121(1.b) of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act states that “parole may be granted at any time to an offender […] whose physical or mental health is likely to suffer serious damage if the offender continues to be held in confinement”. We urge correctional authorities to release as many prisoners as they can using the tools that are at their disposal in order to alleviate the potentially severe negative mental and physical health impacts that come from being incarcerated at a time of national and global health emergency.
It is the responsibility of the government of Canada to protect the people for whom incarceration heightens the urgency of the danger that they face from a global pandemic.
Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ottawa, January 22nd, 2020 – The Office of the Correctional Investigator of Canada issued a news release with disturbing data on the number of Indigenous people in Canadian prisons- https://www.oci-bec.gc.ca/cnt/comm/press/press20200121-eng.aspx.
Over the years, through our monitoring of the conditions of confinement and advocating for women in Canadian prisons, the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (CAEFS) has consistently observed and spoken out about the over-representation of Indigenous women at all levels of the criminal justice system.
The Correctional Investigator of Canada, Dr. Ivan Zinger, states that indigenous people now make up more than 30% of people who are federally incarcerated, despite making up only 5% of the Canadian population.
More alarming is the fact that Indigenous women now account for 42% of all women who are incarcerated in federal prisons in Canada. This number is even more staggering within some provincial jails, particularly in the prairie regions where Indigenous women account for upwards of 90% of the prison population.
These disproportionately high numbers reflect the ongoing and systemic oppression and criminalization of Indigenous women and girls in Canada. CAEFS emphatically calls on the Canadian Government to implement the calls to action from the reports released by the National Inquiry into Missing Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) as well as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in order to help address this persistent and growing issue.
“We witness on a regular basis, the harmful, colonial, practice of incarcerating Indigenous women in Canadian prisons” stated Emilie Coyle, Executive Director of CAEFS. “We continue to advocate for legislative reform to address these alarming figures and we urge the government to treat the over-representation of Indigenous women as the emergency that it is and work toward fulfilling its promise of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples”.
Emilie Coyle – Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies
firstname.lastname@example.org or 613-316-6785
The Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (CAEFS) is hosting a public meeting in St John’s on the morning of September 14th , 2017. We are inviting stakeholders, organizations who work with criminalized women and men, and the general public to this meeting to discuss what we can do to provide more community support, programming and advocacy for criminalized women in Newfoundland before during and after their incarceration. For a number of years, CAEFS has been asked to expand our services to Newfoundland. As an organization that works from the ground up, we are interested in facilitating discussion of this possibility with the communities who are on the ground in Newfoundland.
The morning will feature a presentation by Senator Kim Pate, former Executive Director of CAEFS. Kim’s presentation will be followed by a roundtable of people who work on issues relating to criminalized women in Newfoundland so that we can explore together some of the ways we might move forward to address problems and concerns. And there will be lots of time for general discussion. Your participation in this meeting, as well as that of your co-workers, would be hugely important. We hope that you will be able to join us.
WHEN: Thursday, September 14 at 9:30 AM – 1 PM
WHERE: Meeting Room Salon F, Holiday Inn, 180 Portugal Cove Road
Link to location:
Joint NGO statement in advance of Canada’s examination by UN CERD Committee
August 9, 2017 — This joint statement is released by Canadian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) appearing before the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD Committee), which will review Canada’s compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) on August 14–15, 2017, in Geneva.
Canada enjoys a global reputation as a country that respects human rights. Yet it has in many ways failed to comply with its international human rights obligations, including the obligation to guarantee equal rights and protection to all people in Canada on the basis of race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, (dis)ability, and other related grounds. While Canada espouses a commitment to non-discrimination it has failed to comply with its own domestic human rights laws regarding racial discrimination and Indigenous rights. For example, the federal government has failed to abide by four Canadian Human Rights Tribunal orders issued between January 2016 and May 2017 to cease racially discriminating 165,000 First Nations children. Canada has failed to comprehensively address gender discrimination rooted in the Indian Act, despite being made aware of it by courts, the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, and outside legal experts. In so doing, Canada places itself above its own laws forbidding discrimination, sending a reckless and disturbing message to Canadians that discrimination is not allowed — unless it is the government doing it.
State control over Indigenous Peoples in Canada has not changed. Indigenous Peoples are still wards of the government. Unceded territorial lands and resources are continually taken away and very little is provided by the State in form of programs and services, creating a dependency as well as poverty. Indigenous People do not hold title even on reserve lands, nor are recognized as a People. Recognition of Indigenous title, laws and People is paramount.
As Canadian NGOs, we believe that any UN review of Canada’s record on racial equality and non-discrimination must first recognize nation to nation relationships between Canada and Indigenous Peoples as a fundamental starting point and must include Indigenous Women institutions within this Nation to Nation relationship. We call on the UN to require all governments in Canada to comprehensively deliver on the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a part of this acknowledgement, and put into practice the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples without further delay. Canada must put into action its stated commitment to a nation to nation relationship.
Canada has a long history of racism targeting Indigenous Peoples and communities of colour, including the enslavement of people of African descent, and various forms of legislated racism targeting Chinese, South Asian and other communities of colour. Racism has affected each of these communities differently. For Indigenous peoples in particular, racism is a matter of life and death as they experience the lowest socio-economic indicators, the highest rates of suicide and incarceration in the world, pre-mature deaths, and the murders and disappearances of thousands of Indigenous peoples. In the spirit of the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015–2024), we expect to see concrete actions by the Government of Canada to specifically address anti-Black racism. This includes, but is not limited to, recognizing the rich legacy, historical struggle and many contributions of African Canadian peoples living in the lands now known as Canada for over 300 years. We also expect the Government of Canada to address other unique and specific experiences of racism, and urge it to introduce a new national Action Plan Against Racism, one that will address the universal and particular impacts of racism as experienced by different communities, including through mechanisms such as the consistent collection of disaggregated data across all of its various ministries and departments.
We ask the Committee to adopt an intersectional approach to examining the impact of racism on different racialized communities in Canada. We ask the UN to pay particular attention to the intersection between race and gender and gender identity as it affects Indigenous communities and communities of colour, recognizing in particular the deeply harmful reframing of Indigenous women’s roles as a result of gender discrimination in legislation and as a legacy of residential schools, and the disruption in roles and relationship between Indigenous mothers and children.
Canada devotes significant resources to defending its failure to address the marginalization and victimization – including the criminalization and incarceration — of racialized communities, particularly Indigenous Peoples and African Canadians. Indigenous women represent 39% of women in prison and 43% of 12-18 year-old young women imprisoned in Canada. In 2010, the Parliamentary Budget Officer calculated the cost to keep one woman in a federal penitentiary as $348,000 per year – more than $90 MILLION per year is being spent to jail Indigenous women in federal penitentiaries alone. Canada can and must remedy these egregious policy decisions.
We urge the Committee to examine the discriminatory impact of Canada’s immigration and refugee laws as they affect immigrants, migrants, and people with precarious status, particularly those from the Global South.
Finally, access to justice is a fundamental component of an effective human rights system to ensure non-discrimination. Canada has failed to provide sufficient support to persons or organizations filing equity-seeking claims, and it has taken no meaningful measures to ensure the full and proper implementation of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders domestically. For example, several NGOs in Canada experienced funding cuts after advocating different levels of government to end racial discrimination. Furthermore, Canada’s revised Court Challenges Program limits funding to Charter-based litigation (thereby excluding cases pursued under the Canadian Human Rights Act and other legal avenues challenging discrimination) and offers no funding for cases involving Indigenous rights or human rights defenders. The lack of protection for human rights defenders and the failure to ensure access to justice mute the ability of persons in Canada to seek redress for racial discrimination.
The United Nations treaty body system for human rights allows for a focused examination of specific elements of human rights and of particularly vulnerable populations (e.g., children, persons with disabilities, women). These specialized reviews by treaty bodies such as Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) are vital to ensuring States fully comply with their international human rights obligations. We are grateful to CERD for its work and urge Canada to undertake special measures to resist any efforts to eliminate or erode the efficacy of UN human rights treaty bodies and to advocate with other State parties to ensure the treaty bodies are provided with the resources and support needed to complete their work.
We, the signatories to this statement, will use our appearance before the UN CERD Committee to speak out strongly on Canada’s record on Indigenous rights, anti-Black racism, racial discrimination and human rights, and hold the Canadian government accountable in this important international forum.
Aboriginal Legal Services
African Canadian Legal Clinic
Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies
Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action
Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
Colour of Poverty – Colour of Change
First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada
Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
Ontario Native Women’s Association
South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario
This past Friday, Senator St. Germaine and I had the honour of presenting at the conference, entitled, “The Need for Justice and Equality for Indigenous and All Women” cohosted by the Elixabeth fry society du Quebec, the association canadienne des societies Elizabeth fry et l’University de Montreal.
Held on unceded Mohawk territory, opened by Kanehsatake Elder John Cree, andEllen Gabriel, Cultural consultant for the Kanehsata:ke Language and Cultural Centre. The conference included a message from Senator Murray Sinclair and presentations by Dr. Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, and six courageous Indigenous women, 5 of whom have experienced marginalization and victimization, as well as criminalization and imprisonment.
Two attended residential schools – all experienced the inter-generational impact, and against all odds, are now building their lives, as they integrate into communities across this country. The youngest was born in prison and is graduating high school this month and commencing her studies at the University of Saskatchewan this fall.
To each of them, to Joey, Yvonne, Odelia, Lisa, Kaila and to Haley, I say, Meegwetch. Thank you for your bravery, your resilience and your strength …. Thank you for surviving some of the most unimaginable horrors. Thank you for the privilege of allowing me to walk with, learn from and advocate on behalf of you.
We also heard about the extreme lack of funding allotted to First Nations communities for the education of children – 1/3rd less than any other Canadian child living off reserve. In fact, only one in six has grown up with clean drinking water – that would be as if only 17 of us in this Chamber would have had the opportunity to actually drink water from our taps…
It was Supreme Court of Canada Justice Rosalee Abella who once observed, “We have no business figuring out the cost of justice until we can figure out the cost of injustice,”…Honourable Senators.
It was Gord Downie who said that when it comes to the poverty, racism and discrimination suffered by the Aboriginal people of Canada – we have been trained to look away. I urge each and every one of us to not look away.
As stated by, Cindy Blackstock, we must act now to ensure that future generations of Indigenous children don’t have to recover from their childhood – and future generations non Indigenous children don’t have to say they’re sorry…
Thank you, Merci, Meegwetch”
— Senator Kim Pate