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«Lawrence J. Barkwell, David N. Gray, Manitoba Department of Justice, Manitoba Métis Federation, 77A Redwood Avenue, 408 McGregor Street, Winnipeg, ...»

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DEVALUED PEOPLE: THE STATUS OF THE METIS IN THE

JUSTICE SYSTEM

Lawrence J. Barkwell, David N. Gray,

Manitoba Department of Justice, Manitoba Métis Federation,

77A Redwood Avenue, 408 McGregor Street,

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba,

Canada, R2W 5J5 Canada, R2W 4X5

David N. Chartrand, Lyle N. Longclaws,

Manitoba Association of Eagleman Ventures, Friendship Centres, Lizzard Point I.R., 605 Notre Dame Avenue, Box 87, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Angusville, Manitoba, Canada, R3B 1N3 Canada, R0J 0A0 Ron H. Richard, North West Métis Council, 108-1st Street N.W., Dauphin, Manitoba, Canada, R7N 1N7

ABSTRACT/RESUME

The authors present a concept of devaluation and review the position of the Métis in Canada as a devalued people. They examine the position of Métis and other Aboriginal people in the correctional systems of Manitoba and other provinces, noting both systematic and systemic discrimination. They conclude with recommendations for Aboriginal control of Aboriginal justice and correctional systems.

Les auteurs présentent un concept de dévaluation et réexaminent la situation des Métis au Canada en tant que race dévaluée. Ils étudient la situation dans laquelle se trouvent les Métis et les autres autochtones qui sont dans les institutions correctionnelles au Manitoba et dans d'autres provinces, et constatent une discrimination systématique et systémique. En concluant ils recommandent un contrôle autochtone de la justice et des institutions correctionnelles autochtones.

122 Barkwell/Gray/Chartrand/Longclaws/Richard In July of 1988, the Government of Manitoba set up a Public Inquiry into the Administration of Justice and Aboriginal People.1 This Inquiry was established to examine the impact of the legal system on the Indian, Inuit and Métis population of Manitoba and to produce a final report for the Legislature with a conclusion, opinions and recommendations.2 The Inquiry was given broad scope to examine issues including all components of the justice system. A mandate to determine the extent to which Native and non-Native persons are treated differently by the justice system, and to consider whether or not there are specific adverse effects against Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system including possible systemic discrimination.

The objects of this paper are to review the general effects subtending to Aboriginal people as a devalued group, and to then examine the status of Métis people within the provincial correctional system. This paper presents research evidence that Métis and other Aboriginal peoples are differentially impacted by the operation of the justice system as it now exists, that the effects are adverse, and that systemic discrimination is prevalent.

The lack of recognition of the social viability of Native communities - and a corresponding failure to permit Native people to address their own needs and to manage their own affairs- is rooted in the history of Manitoba. The basis of this colonization is, of course, economic exploitation. The devaluation of a people, and their culture renders it more acceptable to the colonizing group in its rationalization of the exploitation, for when people are seen as less than human, interference with their life is seen as more palatable.

We contend that the effects of the dehumanization are translated to the present day situation where Native people are overrepresented as victims, witnesses and of course the accused of the justice system. This then becomes a self-perpetuating cycle because the dehumanizing treatment received from the justice system further erodes self-esteem.

Aboriginal youth get into conflict with the law at a younger age than do non-Aboriginal youth, and for them, life is confusing and dislocating. There is less success in school and there are fewer work and recreation activities available. In Manitoba, Métis youths are admitted to probation at a (mean) age of 15.6, compared to 16.1 years for non-Natives. Over one-third (34.4%) of Mètis youths admitted to probation are not living with their parents, compared to 25% for non-Natives. The average age of first conviction for Métis children is 14.2, compared to 15 for non-Natives, and 56.8% of Devalued People 123 Métis youth have less than Grade IX, compared to 34.4% for nonNatives. If one combines these factors with the observation that many Métis youths come from communities with less than adequate social services, it is not surprising that their success rate on probation supervision is only 34.9%, compared to a 52.1% success rate for non-Natives and 42.8% success rate for Treaty Indians living on reserves.

During the course of the public hearings throughout Manitoba in 1988 and 1989, a number of people appeared before the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry and blamed Aboriginal individuals or communities for justice system problems, in effect, asserting that Aboriginal people are the sole authors of their own misfortune.

These arguments are flawed both from a lack of understanding of complex societal interactions and because they are founded upon that historical inaccuracy and distortion which is often used to buttress such arguments. This has generated a number of different reactions within the Aboriginal community and within the wider community.





This paper will deal with complex societal interactions and leave historical distortions to be dealt with at another time. The paper will present a paradigm which goes some way to explain what occurs in the lives of devalued people and outline the evidence that these factors are in play within the justice system.

In a presentation to the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry (Barkwell, 1988), the senior author dealt at length with factors which tend to dehumanize both those who are processed by the justice system and those who have responsibility for administration of the various branches of the system (the employees). Those arguments need not be presented here, but do serve as useful background to this presentation.3

Devalued People

Historically, devalued people are those who are racially different, physically different, or behaviorally different from the majority. The basis for the "differentness " resides in accidental or chance factors which are not the making of the individual. For people who are in any way different from the norm, there is a risk that they will experience low status within the larger group. They will remain low status within the community unless a number of other significant factors are present in their lives.

If the individual draws strength and support from traditions, 124 Barkwell/Gray/Chartrand/Longclaws/Richard spiritual resources, a strong family network, or a strong community network (within the context of a shared language), the chances are very good that they will not experience the detrimental effects that usually subtend to persons of low status.

The only other counters to low status are tremendous inner reserves of coping skills or alternately to have very powerful or high status people on their side (a process of inclusion).

If there is no counterbalance as noted above, there are a number of outcomes from being low status and devalued. There are four things these individuals will experience: rejection, low personal autonomy, negative imaging and involuntary poverty.

Rejection: Rejection leads to the creation of distance by the process of either congregation or segregation. Within the earliest communities, banishment was a practice. However, this occurred only as a last resort and was an ultimate disposition as the individual was so dependent upon the community as a whole for survival. In the criminal justice system, those who refuse to adhere to social norms are segregated from the community, often for relatively minor offenses. Unfortunately, they are also congregated in large deviant subcultures.

In any event, rejection leads inevitably to the experience of discontinuity, both physical discontinuity (being moved from place to place), and relational dicontinuity (being moved or separated from family, friends and social network). This in turn, results in personal insecurity and the consequent loss of the ability to trust others.

Negative imaging: Often the person who is identifiably different is described in a pejorative way, and at the same time is suspected of multiple deviance. From personal experience, everyone can recall instances where they have almost reflexively ascribed additional negative attributes to those they perceive as being different. Although we are not discussing stereotyping, the process clearly does lead to stereotypical views.

Low personal autonomy: Low personal autonomy leads to being controlled by others. Low status devalued people are most often viewed as being incapable of managing their own affairs. Most people find this demeaning and find it difficult to maintain their own self-esteem in the face of this pressure. Higher status persons often patronize devalued people, or think they have an inherent right to order them around.

Involuntary poverty: If one is viewed as incapable, the larger community is unlikely to entrust one with communal resources. This involuntary poverty leads to the impoverishment of experience.

Devalued People 125 This, in turn, leads to anger and/or depression, low energy, low selfesteem, feelings of not deserving success and, ultimately, selfrejection.

The four factors listed above lead to social interactions where the devalued person is prone to being on the receiving end of psychological or physical brutality. Quite understandably then, these people come to see themselves as a source of anguish.

When an individual has been cycled through this process a number of times, the result is most often dissipation. At a minimum, the devalued person comes to distrust those in positions of authority.

A major additional problem arising out of poverty, hopelessness, and the sense youths have that to be Indian or Métis is to be a failure, is that according to a self-esteem model of deviance, juveniles may become involved in delinquency as a response to negative self-attitudes, and high self-esteem needs.

Recent research by Wells (1989) tested that self-derogation theory which predicts that low self-esteem motivates youths to try out delinquent activities aimed at restoring self-esteem. He found

significant evidence that this is indeed the case:

The effects are pronounced for more substantial forms of delinquency (theft, vandalism, and fighting)...The enhancing effect of delinquency is showing up significantly and most consistently in persons whose level of self-derogation are extreme...such persons have less to lose by getting involved in socially disapproved deviance and a lot to gain psychologically, since their self-esteem cannot get much lower. (Wells, 1989:248-249) The effects were found to be persistent, enduring undiminished for one and one-half to three and one-half years. Thus, there is extremely good research evidence that the more a group is devalued or denigrated for their own conditions or status, the higher the likelihood of deviant behavior from youths of that group.

Even a cursory examination of the front page of the newspaper

will reveal reports of this process:

Manitoba and Saskatchewan residents blame Natives for their own problems and are less likely than other Canadians to support Aboriginal rights, an Angus Reid Group poll has found...Pollster Angus Reid said yesterday the most troubling of all the findings in the national poll is the tendency of Manitoba and Saskatchewan residents to blame Canada's Native people for the problems that confront them. (McKinley, 1989) 126 Barkwell/Gray/Chartrand/Longclaws/Richard The public responses to a recent article in Canadian Social Trends (Statistics Canada, 1989) are most instructive in this

reguard:

Spokesmen for Native run social agencies who were interviewed yesterday blamed poverty and hopelessness, as well as conditions that go beyond economics; a sense that Native people must assimilate to survive, and that to be Indian or Métis is to be a failure. Alcoholism, child abuse and family murder are all "symptoms of a basic deprivation of a place in the world", said Martin Dunn, senior advisor with the Native Council of Canada, in Ottawa. (Fine, 1989) The Globe and Mail was also able to document poignant self reports of Native leaders expressing the view that they had feelings of self-rejection and a sense of themselves as a source of anguish.

Virtually we grew up to hate what we were. We used to watch cowboy and Indian movies and we'd be rooting for the cowboys as they killed off the Indians. (Fine, 1989) The end result of the interaction of these factors is that custody rates for youths in Manitoba are 57.4% higher than the national average, custody rates for adults in Manitoba exceed the national average by 26.5%, and adult sentences are twice as long as the Canadian median sentence (61 days vs. 30 days).

–  –  –

Figure 1:Canada/Manitoba Incarceration Rates This devaluation is present across Canada. However, because the proportion of Aboriginal people in the population is largest in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories, the results are more immediately obvious in these jurisdictions. This effect amplifies the rates of incarceration for the population as a whole.

This is documented by the fact that the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in the justice system creates a larger general rate of incarceration in Manitoba than the national average. Statistics Canada (1989) reports the following comparative figures for 1988Devalued People 127 A review of the Statistics Canada Key Indicator Reports reveals that the same trend exists in all provinces and territories with significant Aboriginal populations. Most provinces report that Aboriginal people are overrepresented in custody. It is noteworthy that Alberta recently set up a commission of inquiry to determine why almost one-third of that provinces' prisoners are Indian or Métis.

Status Of Métis People In Provincial Corrections In Manitoba

As illustrated in Table 1, Métis youth constitute:

• 14.0% of those receiving diversion from court;

• 17.9% of those receiving probation;

• 30.4% of those receiving secure custody;



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