#Indigenous; #Canada; #RatifyOPCAT

Transparency & Accountability for Incarcerated Indigenous Women in Canada

Launched to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November 2020 the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) issued a new report, Minimizing COVID-19-related Risk Among Incarcerated Indigenous Females Through Transparency and Accountability.

Penned by authors Abrar Ali, Chaneesa Ryan, Hollie Sabourin and yours truly the paper, among other things, calls on Canada to finally ratify and effectively implement the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture.

Prison – Drew Duncan (2010).

The paper’s abstract reads as follows:

“Due to the increased risk of COVID-19 in places of detention such as prisons, greater transparency and independent external oversight is required. In Canada, Indigenous women represent over 41% of federally incarcerated women, despite just representing 4% of the total female population. Epidemiological data shows that Indigenous inmates and federally incarcerated women have been disproportionately impacted by the infection. As a result, federally incarcerated Indigenous women are at an elevated risk based on their over-incarceration, gender and ethnicity. NWAC is calling for increased transparency and oversight of places of deprivation of liberty and swift, concrete and meaningful follow-up to Canada’s different national inquiries in order to keep Indigenous women safe from harm.”

The new report also echoes concerns recently expressed by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples about the heightened risks faced by Indigenous prisoners during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The paper calls for greater transparency and accountability at all levels, institutional and governmental, which is especially compelling during the current COVID-19 pandemic in order to keep Indigenous women safe from harm, reduce their institutional and societal risk, and address entrenched discriminatory practices.

It seeks to address all of these issues, opening with a focus on the national travesty that has resulted from the ‘Indigenization’ of Canada’s federal prison population, so described by the Office of the Correctional Investigator earlier in 2020.

The third section of the paper looks in greater depth at the exercise of independent oversight of prisons during the on-going pandemic, drawing on the international guidance which has emerged on this issue in past months. The on-going failure of Canada to make progress in relation to the ratification of the OPCAT is also discussed.

Feedback on the paper – good or bad – is warmly welcomed.


Read the NWAC report, Minimizing COVID-19-related Risk Among Incarcerated Indigenous Females Through Transparency and Accountability.

See the Office of the Correctional Investigator’s report on the ‘Indigenization’ of the federal prison population.

See the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the heightened risks for Indigenous prisoners during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the entry on Canada in Penal Reform International’s 2019 report, Global Prison Trends.

Posted by mp in Canada, COVID-19, Indigenous people, Oversight bodies, Prisons