Métis Nation of Alberta to develop renewed justice strategy
May 23, 2023
Edmonton, AB – Incarceration rates among Indigenous populations in Canada are at an all-time high, with 30 per cent of all inmates serving a federal sentence identifying as Indigenous but accounting for only five per cent of the general Canadian population. That’s according to the latest federal data from 2020 released by Correctional Investigator of Canada, Dr. Ivan Zinger. Meanwhile, Dr. Zinger’s findings show both federal prisons in Edmonton have a population that is more than 50 per cent Indigenous.
To address this “Indigenization” of the federal justice system head-on, the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA) is developing a Métis justice strategy to support Métis Albertans, with an anticipated completion date of Fall 2023. Integral to this are a series of renewed community engagement sessions with Citizens that ran from April 17 to June 5 across Alberta.
“The justice strategy engagements ensure that efforts reflect the real needs and experiences of Métis Albertans,” said MNA President, Audrey Poitras. “This issue is close to home for many of our citizens, so we’re working hard to ensure this strategy is developed as thoughtfully and comprehensively as possible.”
Throughout these engagement sessions, one overarching priority from Métis Citizens has been that justice initiatives must be led by the Métis and recognize and support the unique needs of Métis Nation Citizens through self-determination. These specific Citizen priorities include:
- – Developing Métis-led, community-based alternatives to traditional justice systems and a mandate to utilize them.
- – A shift in the overall paradigm of “justice,” to include proactive concepts of healing and community wellness as tools for reducing incarceration and recidivism.
- – More Indigenous courts/ Indigenous practices being used within the Canadian justice system that reflect Métis values (i.e. cultural components in court processes, language translation, alternative measures).
- – Improved education for police and other justice officials to address the violence demonstrated towards Métis people. Could also include improved accountability measures for perpetrators of police and corrections violence.
- – Improved data collection to identify Métis Citizens involved in justice systems, both as clients and survivors of crime.
- – Greater support for parolees and probation recipients.
- – System navigation and direct support (i.e. court workers, correctional advocates).
- – Advocacy for Métis involved in courts and experiencing bias or racism.
- – MNA legal aid/advocates to inform and support Citizens with their legal needs.
- – Métis-led victim services and supports to ensure culturally appropriate and sensitive supports for Métis victims of crimes, especially victims of violent crimes (such as the families of Métis murder victims).
On January 12, 2023, the Federal Government announced $1.5 million in total funding over three years to support Métis-led engagement informing the development of an Indigenous Justice Strategy to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the justice system. This funding represents an official announcement of the funding already received by the MNA to engage on the Government of Canada Indigenous Justice Strategy.
“The overrepresentation of Indigenous people, including Métis, in the Canadian Criminal Justice system is deeply rooted in the legacy of colonialism. We’re happy to see that the federal government is moving forward on reconciliation in this area,” said Poitras. “However, the Métis Nation of Alberta has not been waiting for other governments to act. We have been and will continue to support our Citizens. It’s clear that Métis voices need to be at the table for any discussions on the future of policing and justice.”
The passing of the Otipemisiwak Métis Government Constitution, and work towards self-government is opening many doors for the MNA. “We will have a new fiscal relationship within Canada as well as increased authority to be able to provide Métis-designed, culturally appropriate supports to our Citizens in areas like justice,” said Poitras.
Over the past year, the MNA has also appointed a Métis Justice Advocate and created a new Justice Initiatives Manager to support and advocate for Métis citizens involved in the justice system.
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