The Experiences of Indigenous Persons in the Canadian Criminal Justice System

The Experiences of Indigenous Persons in the Canadian Criminal Justice System


Although there is no rigid definition of indigenous persons, they are perceived by many as special and unique categories of people whose identity is determined by considering a number of characteristics. They communicate in multiple languages and have very diverse traditions of the land. Besides, there exist basic principles that are common to all indigenous communities which lay the foundation of their practices. Actually, because of them, many of our economies and societies remain equitable, balanced, and sustainable.  However, these communities have been facing different types of experiences in the regions where they are located.  Some of the experiences they encounter are in line with the manner in which justice is accorded them. Several regions around the world approach justice systems depending on the dictates of their constitution. The central claim of this text will, therefore, be that of discussing the experiences of indigenous persons in the Canadian justice system in which a number of aspects associated with the topic will be discussed in the manner I which they occur.

How colonisation has contributed to Indigenous overrepresentation in Canada’s criminal justice system

There is no doubt that colonization has highly contributed to the overrepresentation of indigenous community in criminal justice systems of Canada. In Canada, the overrepresentation of Aboriginal inmates in federal prisons is alarming. According to statistics, indigenous communities in Canada represent about 2% of the adult population. Out of the total population of those who were admitted in prison between 1991 and 1992, 11 % were indigenous. Between 1996 and 1997, the number had increased to 15% and 18 percent in the year 2001. Indigenous offenders varied by the provinces of their location with the highest number (91%) being found in the Northwest regions of Canada. Saskatchewan followed covering 68% and then Yukon with 63%.  Young indigenous offenders in Canada are as well overrepresented in custody facilities (Martínez Chávez, 2017).

In Canada, criminologists have for the last few decades been addressing the issue of race and criminal justice.  They have provided written materials which carry very important overview concerning indigenous issues.  Actually, in Canada, collecting and reporting data concerning race and ethnicity in the criminal justice system is not routinely carried out.  Collection of data on the basis of race and crime has brought about a serious debate in Canadian society. The Canadian academics have addressed the issue of indigenous criminal justice systems by considering several diverse problems that have taken place among them for an extended period. Some of the issues are connected with how law enforcers perform their tasks towards offenders (especially indigenous community).

According to the report by scholars and government bodies, Canada is profoundly affected by the issue of marginalisation and criminal justice involvement. Anne Finn et al. acknowledges the fact that social and economic deprivation in Canada stands as the leading cause of proportionately high rates of criminality among indigenous people. Besides, the Correctional Service of Canada holds that inadequate education, poverty, poor conditions of living, domestic violence, drug and substance abuse, and unemployment are the contributing factors why indigenous generation get involved in a conflict with the law. The current impacts of colonialism among the indigenous communities are highly recognised in Canada, but they are directly attributed to specified colonial processes.  You realise that the widespread tendency of the policymakers to assume the aspect of the colonial roots of marginalisation issues in Canada and focusing more on the current issues of criminal justice has made indigenous community continue being overrepresented in the criminal justice systems of Canada (Prins, 2011).

Three strategies/practices/approaches that have been implemented in the Canadian criminal justice system (courts, policing, and corrections) to address the needs of Indigenous persons once they become involved in the system

Many are the strategies that the Canadian justice system has put in place to assist them in addressing the needs of indigenous persons any time they get involved in the system. Out of these strategies, the three major ones include;

  1. Providing Adult, Community corrections & family services (Correction branch)

By providing these services, justice related support is offered which will assist in fostering the improvements of justice systems as well as civil processes that are set aside to address the needs of the indigenous community. These programs are quite important in the sense that they assist in restoring justice initiative and fostering sense of ownership in the community by making people responsible and very careful about all issues that are related to justice. It also encourages the indigenous community to develop an interest in becoming part of the dispute resolution team (Prins, 2011).

  1. Establishment of the Aboriginal Victim Assistant Program.

Another strategy implemented to address the needs of indigenous generation in Canada is the establishment of the program referred to as Aboriginal Victim Assistant Program. The program is designed to provide justice-related support to the indigenous community. The services which are offered through this program include supporting victims who get involved in a restorative justice program to address the issues of offence, providing specific justice system information, among others. This program has various objectives which include providing appropriate services to indigenous crime victims based on the nature of their victimisation. Also, ensuring close working with other members of the society to ensure that indigenous victims are supported through justice processes of all kind to assist them in restoring their confidence, and to repair the harm which has been caused by the victims. This can only be achieved by educating them about community resources and the need to maintain and take care of those resources (Jennings & Maldonado-Molina, 2016).

  • Nen Quary Deni Yajelhtig Law Center

Nen Quary Deni Yajelhtig Law Center is the third strategy. It ensures that indigenous communities in Canada receive a means to develop new approaches of justice by joining customary restorative practices to contemporary ones. These programs are meant to join together the interests of the community and restore harmony among them. The program objectively provides a meaningful leadership role in educating indigenous people on the provincial and federal justice systems approaches. The program also develops alternative measures on how to restore justice especially when a crime is seen as a violation of the law and has some relationship between the person involved and the community. Together with several other approaches, the above strategies are essential in addressing the needs of Indigenous persons once they become involved in the system (Jennings & Maldonado-Molina, 2016).

Identify and describe two recommendations that might decrease Indigenous overrepresentation in Canada’s criminal justice system

Cases of overrepresentation of indigenous persons in Canada’s criminal justice system can be reduced depending on various factors.  One of the major factors is criminalisation which is the use of criminal justice processes, institutions, and agents to cater to the issues relating to mental issues. In Canada, this factor has been very effective as a way of managing individuals who are suspected of committing the crime on the basis of their mental condition.  Considering the obvious factors such as those that are related to law and order in Canada, the following two recommendations might be the most appropriate to decrease indigenous overrepresentation in the Canadian criminal justice system (2019).

  1. Increasing the number of indigenous persons in policy making

One way that can certainly reduce the overrepresentation of indigenous persons in the Canadian criminal justice system would be that of involving as many indigenous persons in policy-making as possible.  That will make other members of the indigenous community feel that they are well represented in government activities and stop getting involved in criminal activities. This approach will also assist in addressing idleness among indigenous Canadian population because the majority will have jobs and will not have time to exercise criminal injustices. Poverty and illiteracy will also reduce among them (Bucerius & Tonry, 2014).

  1. Use of multi-pronged approach

A multi-pronged approach is a general word describing a situation where more than one activity is occurring at different places and at different times. The approach is recommended because it will provide better training for those who are not indigenous professionals on how to apply alternative justice measures towards the indigenous community. Criminal Justice facilities are distributed equally to all regions which makes it easier for every Canadian to understand law from their locality (Arora et al., 2016).



In conclusion, it is very clear from the above discussion that indigenous persons in the Canadian criminal justice system have faced very severe experiences. Some of the experiences have denied them fundamental human rights. For instance, poverty, illiteracy, drug abuse and many other skills have been addressed as some of the significant experiences that affect indigenous persons in Canada.  However, I would recommend that the United Nations department come up with numerous measures to take care of the indigenous generation so that they are not faced with extreme issues of crime.














Bucerius, S. M., & Tonry, M. H. (Eds.). (2014). The Oxford handbook of ethnicity, crime, and immigration. Oxford Handbooks.

Jennings, W. G., & Maldonado-Molina, M. M. (Eds.). (2016). The encyclopedia of crime and punishment (Vol. 1). John Wiley & Sons.

Martínez Chávez, E. (2017). Jorge Alberto Núñez. Fernando Cadalso y la reforma penitenciaria en España (1883-1939). Madrid: Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, 2014, 487 p. ISBN 978-84-9085-195-1 (Versión en internet: Relaciones Estudios De Historia Y Sociedad38(151), 330. doi: 10.24901/rehs.v38i151.268

Prins, S. (2011). Does Transinstitutionalization Explain the Overrepresentation of People with Serious Mental Illnesses in the Criminal Justice System?. Community Mental Health Journal47(6), 716-722. doi: 10.1007/s10597-011-9420-y

Reasons, C., Hassan, S., Ma, M., Monchalin, L., Bige, M., Paras, C., & Arora, S. (2016). Race and Criminal Justice in Canada. International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences11(2).

Strategic Plan for Aboriginal Corrections. (2019). Retrieved from