Metis to research how many of its citizens are jailed, create new prevention programs

By Dave Baxter

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The federal government says it will provide funding of more than

$1.5 million to help the Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) get a better idea of how many Red River Metis citizens are currently incarcerated and to help find ways to keep more Metis citizens out of the criminal justice system.

On Tuesday during a virtual press conference, it was announced that Justice Canada will provide $1.68 million over five years through the Indigenous Justice Program to MMF to support the “continued delivery of community-based justice programs, and their work to address the overrepresentation of Red River Metis people in the justice system.”

And although statistics on the number of Indigenous people who are incarcerated in this province and across the country are widely available, MMF President David Chartrand said on Tuesday those kinds of statistics are much harder to find specifically related to Red River Metis citizens.

“It’s been a challenge, no one seems to want to collect the data,” Chartrand said. “We don’t know the ratio, but we definitely know there’s a crime concern in our villages right now that’s starting to grow.”

On Tuesday, Justice Minister David Lametti said that lack of data is one of several issues the feds hope to address through the funding.

The money will also be used to support several MMF initiatives, including community justice programs that look to use restorative justice strategies to help rehabilitate offenders, and a brand new mediation program they said will help Metis citizens to deal with family-related issues.

“Advancing reconciliation requires supporting culturally appropriate, Indigenous-led and community-based justice services, and building policies informed by the lived experiences of Indigenous peoples,” Lametti said.

“These are key to achieving systemic change in our justice system.”

The money will be allocated through MMF’s Metis Justice Institute, which provides several different justice-related services that work to “reduce the number of Red River Metis people involved in the criminal justice system,” and to “prevent and reduce crime, as well as enhance the safety and well-being of Red River Metis individuals and communities.”

MMF Minister of Justice Julyda Lagimodiere said: “culturally appropriate” programming is essential for preventing Metis citizens from being incarcerated and becoming involved in the criminal justice system.

“Red River Metis-led, culturally-appropriate programs and services can play a vital role in reducing the overrepresentation of our Citizens in the justice system and addressing systemic racism,”

Lagimodiere said in a release. “The MMF, the National Government of the Red River Metis, has a demonstrated track record of success when we take the lead in creating and implementing programming.

“Our culture requires us to take a holistic approach to justice that considers and addresses the impacts on family and community.”

And while statistics related to Red River Metis incarceration rates are hard to come by, statistics show that, in total, a highly disproportionate number of Indigenous people continue to make up those who are incarcerated across the country, and those numbers are even more alarming here in Manitoba.

It is estimated that Indigenous men and women make up about 32% of the federal penitentiary population in Canada, despite comprising less than 5% of the country’s population.

And in Manitoba, it is estimated that as many as 70% of inmates incarcerated at the Stony Mountain federal penitentiary are Indigenous.

 

– Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. Turtle Island News does not receive LJI funding.

 

 

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