Aboriginal Legal Services
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One step forward, two steps back for Indigenous women in Canada according to the United Nations
November 21, 2016 Toronto, Canada
While Canada prides itself on being committed to equality, the country has a long way to go when it comes to the rights of Indigenous women according to the Concluding Observations of the 65th Session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) which were released in Geneva on November 18.
This is no revelation to Aboriginal Legal Services (ALS) who sent a lawyer to Geneva to make submissions about the discrimination Indigenous women face every day in areas ranging from education to the criminal justice system.
“We were pleased to see CEDAW acknowledging the gender discrimination in the Indian Act and calling on the federal government to fix the law,” said Emily Hill, ALS Senior Staff Lawyer who attended the 65th session on behalf of ALS. “Another key finding is that the federal government has taken insufficient measures to ensure that all cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women are duly investigated and prosecuted. CEDAW makes clear that the current national inquiry is not enough. Canada must implement the other 37 recommendations CEDAW made in 2015. CEDAW also called on Canada to strengthen partnerships with the Aboriginal women’s organizations that support families through the inquiry process.”
However, ALS also feels that CEDAW failed to address important systemic discrimination faced by Indigenous women and girls. “In its report to CEDAW, Canada claimed that all children in Canada have the same access to elementary and secondary education regardless of race, but Canadians are all too aware how the chronic underfunding of education for First Nation children, both on and off –reserve, means that these children don’t get the same opportunities,” said Christa Big Canoe, ALS Legal Director. “Education is the first step toward ensuring equality. Without access to education, Indigenous children will continue to be disadvantaged in the workplace, in political life, and in every other area that CEDAW is concerned with. I am disappointed that CEDAW didn’t call on Canada to equally fund the education of Indigenous students so they get the same start as every other Canadian child.”
Emily Hill, Senior Staff Lawyer, Tel: 416-708-8425 x. 224; email: email@example.com
Christa Big Canoe, Legal Director, Tel: 647-227-4392; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For the PDF version, please click here
October 31, 2016
Globe and Mail
October 28, 2016
Adam Capay is but one of the Indigenous Inmates Ontario is failing (PDF)
October 28, 2016 Toronto, Ontario
Aboriginal Legal Services remains concerned about Adam Capay and other Indigenous inmates. Legal Director, Christa Big Canoe, stated “Mr. Capay’s situation is extreme. His story shows the public that Ontario relies on administrative segregation to address the many shortcomings of its correctional systems. This has a disproportionate impact on Indigenous inmates, many of whom have also spent more than 15 days in administrative segregation.” There must be action into the mismanagement and barbaric use of segregation in Ontario.
Deflection and inaction from those in positions of authority is disappointing. For all intense purposes, Mr. Capay continues to be in administrative segregation. The depravation of Mr. Capay’s rights is but one example of how the justice system is once again failing Aboriginal peoples.
ALS staff lawyer, Caitlyn Kasper, stated: “It’s disheartening to hear that Mr. Naqvi – the current Attorney General for Ontario – doesn’t remember hearing about Mr. Capay’s plight. In my opinion, this only reinforces the belief widely held by Indigenous communities that government and its elected officials consider the lives and situations of Indigenous people as not worthy of consideration and not worthy of the human rights and freedoms that the rest of the population enjoys.”
We cannot forget the unimaginable circumstances Mr. Capay now faces but we must also remember there are others. The recent three-month study by the MCSCS from October to December 2015 revealed 22.8% of segregation placements were for over 15 days. This is in complete violation of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Mandela Rules) and can amount to torture that is prohibited.
ALS’s Program Director, Jonathan Rudin, added “We are all rightfully outraged when we learn about Canadians being held in jails in other countries in horrific conditions. We need to bring that same outrage to what is happening to inmates in solitary confinement in Ontario prisons. If it’s not right outside of Canada, it’s not right here either.”
The announcement of more review being promised by the MCSCS, is not an adequate response. Failure for more prompt response leaves questions as to how many Aboriginal inmates in Ontario are suffering like Adam Capay. ALS continues to calls for the immediate elimination of administrative segregation.
Christa Big Canoe, Legal Director, 647-227-4392; email: email@example.com
Jonathan Rudin, Program Director, 416-616-0697 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Letter to Minister David Orazietti (PDF)
Aboriginal Legal Services calls on Minister Orazietti to take IMMEDIATE ACTION to stop the inhumane treat of Adam Capay
October 26, 2016
Aboriginal Legal Services (ALS) calls on the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services (MCSCS), David Orazietti, to immediately release Mr. Adam Capay from segregation and to alleviate the harsh circumstances that Mr. Adam Capay is experiencing.
ALS believes that Mr. Capay’s Constitutional and Charter rights are being infringed. Urgent and immediate action is required to ensure that Mr. Capay’s health, mental health and well-being are paramount considerations while he is in MCSCS’s custody. ALS has written the Minster expressing their concerns and their call for immediate resolution to have Mr. Capay removed from segregation.
Maggie Wente, the Vice President of ALS’s Board of Directors stated: “The custodial circumstances of Adam Capay are absolutely appalling. The use of administrative segregation in this case exemplifies how the treatment of vulnerable Aboriginal inmates without any apparent accountability has grave effects on their well being” ALS’s Program Director Jonathan Rudin added “The reliance on solitary confinement in Ontario has gone on for too long. While the issue is being studied the human rights of prisoners continues to be violated with horrendous consequences. What is needed at this point is not further study but action.”
The Legal Director for ALS, Christa Big Canoe, said “What is most concerning is that administrative segregation occurs behind closed doors and out of public’s mind. The whole situation leads me to wonder and worry about how many more Aboriginal inmates in Ontario are experiencing the same unacceptable situation Mr. Capay finds himself in right now.”
Ms. Big Canoe added: “One of the responsibilities the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services has is to maintain and monitor Ontario's adult correctional institutions. The gross mismanagement of the custodial care being provided to Adam Capay is but one more illustration that Canadian justice system harms Aboriginal inmates. It is not good enough for the Minister to state he does not comment on individual cases. If this case does demonstrate the need to monitor the institutes, I am not sure what does. It is time for the Minister to take action.”
Christa Big Canoe, Legal Director, Aboriginal Legal Services 647-227-4392; email: email@example.com
Jonathan Rudin, Program Director, Aboriginal Legal Services 416-616-0697 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
'We're not talking people getting shot so much, but we are talking about physical abuse'
By Nicole Ireland, CBC News Posted: Sep 25, 2016 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Sep 26, 2016 9:02 AM ET
Racial discrimination is deeply ingrained in the policing and justice systems and can't be addressed until it's acknowledged, said Caitlyn Kasper, a lawyer at Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto who has handled race-based complaints against police.
Caitlyn Kasper, a staff lawyer at Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto, says it's hard for police to admit to racial bias. (Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto)
"You're talking about a history based on, you know, hundreds of years of relationship between Indigenous people and government institutions," she said. "One of the hardest things that I have ... found in the work that I've done is for police officers to admit that there's a problem."
The heads of some police forces say they are making efforts to both face and address the problem.
"We recognize that there is a long standing distrust of police by Indigenous people," said Chris Adams, spokesman for the Thunder Bay Police Service, in a statement to CBC News on Saturday. "When mistakes are made, we must take responsibility for them. Reviews of policing practices create a great opportunity to evolve how policing services are provided.
"There is a cultural divide in our country which needs to be healed," Adams said. "We must always remember that beneath the issues, the uniforms and the challenges, we are all human."