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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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Our research reveals that only 14% of alternative measures participants are Métis, whereas Métis youths constitute 17% of the youth probation caseloads, and from 30.4 to 38% of the youth custody population (Tables 1 and 2). Only 25% of the Métis communities which are served by local fine option and community service order programs are also served by local youth justice committees.

This lack of diversion for Métis youth is due to a number of factors. Research recently completed by Ryant and Heinrich (1988) found that differences in community characteristics are a significant


136 Barkwell/Gray/Chartrand/Longclaws/Richard Highly disorganized and disintegrated communities tend to experience a greater number of offences by young people, but outside Winnipeg, they are also less likely to have formed youth justice committees. In these communities, the challenge of providing social services through community based intervention is greatest; these communities are often geographically isolated and constrained by having to negotiate separately with federal and provincial bureaucracies regarding Native self-government.

On the other hand, communities in relatively prosperous rural areas which have the resources, time and tradition of community participation, have formed committees whose main challenge is to maintain the motivation of their membership in that referrals are so infrequent. Ryant and Heinrich (1988) also point to inconsistency in community dispositions, the claims of some committees that cases are being withheld from them, and the lack of data base to guide selection of the most effective dispositions, as areas of administration in the youth justice committee system in Manitoba that require improvement. Ryant and Heinrich (1988) note that on reserves the support of the Band Council is integral to the operation of youth justice committees. They note that no committee could operate without at least pro forma approval of a Band Council, but their study revealed that Band Council support was minimal, as was overt interest in the communities. Their study makes no comment on Métis communities. This appears to be a serious omission in this federally funded study.

In November of 1989, the Manitoba Métis Federation held three justice workshops at their 21st Annual Assembly. Delegates (195) attended from every region of the province and 72 delegates completed justice questionnaires, which specifically asked about knowledge and involvement in alternative measures, justice committees and community service dispositions (Barkwell, 1989).

The delegates indicated that few Métis communities had been approachedto participate in youth diversion programs. The specific

question asked was:

Have you or your M.M.F. local been approached by provincial or federal corrections to participate in community corrections services?

Affirmative answers Fine Option 43.0% Community Service Work 19.4% Youth Justice Committees 5.5% Alternative measures 1.4% Devalued People 137 At the same time, 88.9% of the respondents indicated they would like more information about the justice system, and 59.7% felt there was enough interest in their community or local to warrant a justice issues workshop. One can only conclude that part of the reason for lack of diversion from court for Métis youth is due to a lack of outreach and education to these Métis communities as to the diversion provisions of the Young Offenders Act.

Fine Option/Community Service Order Program

Manitoba Corrections has contracts for Fine Option and Community Service work centre operations with 24 Métis communities (Community Councils and Local Government Districts), four Manitoba Métis Federation Locals, and four Indian/ Métis friendship centres, as well as 54 contracts with Band Councils.

In all, 85 of 135 Métis communities (63%) in Manitoba are served by Fine Option Program/Community Service Order community resource centres, operating directly in their area, and 54 of 62 Indian Bands (87%) are served by Band Council operations.

The participating M.M.F. locals are:

• M.M.F. Northwest Métis Council

• The Pas, Manitoba Métis Federation

• Vogar, Manitoba Métis Federation

• Leaf Rapids, Manitoba Métis Federation

The participating Indian Métis Friendship Centres are:

• Swan River Friendship Centre

• Dauphin Friendship Centre

• Lynn Lake Friendship Centre

• Ma-Mow-We-Tak Friendship Centre Most of the remaining friendship centres participate in the program by serving as work locations.

Aboriginal adults and youths made up 4,450 (60.2%) of the 7,393 registrants for fine option in 1987. The successful completion rate remains high (around 70%).

Of fine defaulters admitted to jail in 1988:

• 23.6% of Métis admissions were for fine default;

• 21.5% of other Aboriginal admissions were for fine default;

and • 20.9% of non-Native admissions were for fine default.

138 Barkwell/Gray/Chartrand/Longclaws/Richard Comparing registrations with defaults, we find that 11% of the Aboriginal people who register default, whereas 13.6% of the nonAboriginal registrants default.

Overall, the Fine Option/Community Service Order Program seems to serve the Treaty Indian/Métis/Non-Status Indian community quite well. High use is made of the program by Aboriginal people, their completion rate is better than average, and the jail admissions for default are not out of line with default admissions from the non-Aboriginal community. The slightly high rate of Métis admissions may be explained by the fact that community resource centres are directly serving only 85 of 135 Métis communities, whereas 54 of 62 Bands are served by Band local resource centres, operated by Band Councils.

We also note, as one example, the case of one Native young offender who was given a Community Service Order and was charged three times with a breach of probation for failing to complete the order. In an interview with a Native probation officer, the accused offered no reason for this failure. The probation officer set new terms and asked the young offender if he understood. He said, "yes". Because of suspicions aroused by certain contextual references, the probation officer asked the youth to name the months of the year in English. The youth could not! The probation officer then explained the obligations in Saulteaux and the youth Devalued People 139 completed his obligation in one week. This graphically demonstrates that if a program is to be effective and efficient, cultural awareness is essential.

Nonetheless, this program stands as an example of extensive effort on the part of Correctional Officials to involve local Indian and Métis governing bodies in the delivery of service, and to provide extensive regionalization. The program is diverting people from jail and it produces default admission rates where Aboriginal people are not disproportionately represented. Manitoba Métis Federation research has indicated that Métis women are less likely to complete Fine Option/Community Service Order work. There has been no study or research of this, but we are told that the obvious problems of lack of child care, low incomes and lesser accessibility are primary causes.

The Status Of Métis Women In Corrections Manitoba

The Portage Correctional Institution (PCI) is a provincial jail for women in Manitoba with a capacity of 43 inmates. Sentences up to two years are served there, and women sentenced to serve federal terms at Kingston, Ontario are held at PCI during their appeal period. Alternatively, they can serve federal sentences there under a federal/provincial transfer agreement.

The majority of admissions are Aboriginal women, 68.4% in 1987 (Table 6). Of federal prisoners transferred to Kingston during 1987, 100% were Aboriginal women (four). This incarceration rate for Aboriginal women mirrors their arrest rate. Over the last decade, Winnipeg City Police have indicated that about 70% of the women arrested in Winnipeg are of Aboriginal descent.

In the latest figures available to us (Robertson, 1988), Métis and non-Status Indian women made up 30.3% of the Aboriginal admissions to PCI. The majority of these women are sole support parents from male dominated environments. The majority of Indian Bands in Manitoba are headed by male Chiefs and male mayors head most Métis and non-status communities. The superintendent of PCI is a man. The Native liaison worker at Kingston Prison for Women is a man.

Portage Correctional Institution operates a program whereby newborns are not separated from their mothers. However, because of the location of PCI, most inmates lose regular contact with their older children (Robertson, 1988).

While the research on infant-parent bonding would support the practice of not separating mothers from infants, running the 140 Barkwell/Gray/Chartrand/Longclaws/Richard

Source: Eleanor Robinson (1988)

program in a jail as austere as Portage Correctional Institition, rather than in a halfway house, is questionable.

In federal corrections nationally, Aboriginal females made up 14.2% of the women in federal prisons. Indians were 11.4% and Métis 2.8% of this female inmate population. All but two were held at Kingston (Solicitor General of Canada, 1989).

The Aboriginal Womens' Justice Committee (1988) reports that the personal histories of Native women in conflict with the law are set in a socio-political system where they have no status except through a husband, and where they feel compelled to keep silent on the violence within their lives.

Liaison workers who visit Aboriginal women at the Portage Correctional Institution for Women report that every woman they have visited has, at one time or another, been a victim of sexual or physical violence.

They surveyed offenders as to the stress factors that led to the commission of crimes and came up with the following list in order of

frequency mentioned:

Devalued People 141

–  –  –

The committee noted, with interest, that the Aboriginal women surveyed were least familiar with programs that should have been the most relevant, such as the Awasis Agency, a northern Indian Social Service Agency, the Department of Indian Affairs, Medical Services and Court Communicators services.

It was their assessment that Aboriginal women are not only challenged by social and economic inequities, but must also cope with the devaluation of their culture, religion, traditions, and lifestyle. These concerns are only exacerbated when Aboriginal women leave rural areas to escape all of the negative factors in their lives. Furthermore, Aboriginal women caught up in the criminal justice system have a documented victimization rate far in excess of the general population.

The feelings of worthlessness which so many incarcerated Aboriginal women indicate, are only reinforced by the jail system.

They are separated from their children, and when children visit them they are often subjected to the indignity of "strip" searches for contraband, as are the women themselves upon returning from temporary absences in the community.

A Métis woman who used to work in liaison at the Portage Correctional Institution noted that even when she was able to take older children out to visit their mothers, this had unsatisfactory results, because the visiting area is crowded and inadequate, and the jail has no provision for private visiting with families.

The women also report that they must wear used institutional 142 Barkwell/Gray/Chartrand/Longclaws/Richard underclothing if they do not have money to buy their own. This has also been confirmed by the executive director of the Elizabeth Fry Society when she questioned, in an interview, the amount of time and money this private agency had to expend in trying to provide the basic necessities for jailed women. The Elizabeth Fry Society also confirmed that most Aboriginal women in jail are a significant distance from family, friends and support networks. Because they are poor, visiting or even making long distance phone calls on the pay phone is prohibitive.

In their 1989 submission to the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry, Manitoba Métis Federation recommended that because of the geographical distribution of women incarcerated in the Portage Correctional Institution and the Kingston, Ontario Prison for Women, accommodation must be made for them to meet regularly with their families and adequate bed space must be contracted within Aboriginal receiving groups for the release of Aboriginal female offenders on temporary absence and day parole.

The Manitoba Métis Federation inquiry report agreed with the Native Probation Caucus (1989) assessment that, " the criminal justice system is not sensitive to Native women", and institutions for these women make little effort to aid transition to the community.


It is our assessment that there are clearly a number of factors which interact to produce the overrepresentation of Métis people as offenders (with high re-involvement rates). These same factors interact to make Métis people more susceptible to victimization.

1. There has been an historical repression of Métis custom and tradition, social structures and support systems.

2. The Métis have little discretionary time or money available to respond as a community to the problems of crime.

3. Official responses to the problems documented above are usually framed in terms of social control rather than social development.

4. Aboriginal people as a visible minority have been denigrated and their history has been conveyed in a distorted way. In youths this leads to self-derogation, feelings of helplessness and alienation.

5. The intended child welfare remedies have not worked for Métis children.

6. Official justice system interventions have been culturally alien or irrelevant and poorly understood by the Métis community.

Devalued People 143

7. The Métis have been effectively denied participation in the creation and administration of law.

8. The official justice system has acted in ways which engender disrespect and cynicism within the Métis community.

9. In many instances correctional and other related services have been denied or not made available to the Métis.

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