Indigenous people must face significant difficulties such as racism and discrimination, over and above many other challenges as well. Prejudices with regard to the First Peoples contribute to situations of vulnerability and reinforce distrust toward public services.
In fact, Indigenous realities are permeated with a history of unequal relations, obstacles, racism and discrimination, loss of identity, and alienating structures. Centuries of colonial policies and practices to alienate Indigenous peoples from their territory, their culture, and their identity, had established the objective of excluding Indigenous people and restricting them to Canada’s and Quebec’s societal fringe. The imposition of the Indian Act and residential schools are examples of policies and practices responsible for the severe trauma passed on from one generation to the next which, even today, impedes equality for Indigenous peoples. Hence, this difficult past history causes distrust toward public services.
“Close to one-half (48%) of the 30 000 children and teens in foster homes throughout the country are from Indigenous communities. Yet, the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit combined make up for 4.3% of the Canadian population.
In Quebec, the number of Indigenous children under care of the Director of Youth Protection is five times higher than for non-Indigenous children, considering their demographic weight. In fact, 10% of children under social services care are Indigenous. However, barely 2% of Quebec children are Indigenous.”
Source: Statistics Canada, 2015
As for Indigenous children, neglect constitutes the main grounds for Youth Protection intervention. Many factors such as poverty, addiction, and domestic violence may affect the ability of parents to meet the physical, psychological, and emotional needs of their children (FNQLHSSC, 2015).
Therefore, it is important to take preventive action and address the causes for neglect, so as to reduce the number of Indigenous children taken into care.
The Indigenous Friendship Centres work daily with Indigenous families. Indigenous Friendship Centres collaborate at different levels in the youth protection intervention process. They are capable of identifying situations that are at risk and act preventively with Indigenous parents by offering them tools and rigorous support, thus enhancing their parental experience and consolidating their achievements. They can also be key players in the implementation and success of various measures. If needed, the Indigenous Friendship Centres are present after youth protection intervention when the file is closed, to ensure a positive path and a reassuring presence for the families.
To this effect, the RCAAQ provides support to the intervention teams on the field and offers ongoing training, more particularly with regard to the amendments made and new provisions to the Youth Protection Act.
On October 22, 2015, the investigative television broadcast “Enquête” aired on the Radio-Canada station, revealing disturbing testimonies by the family of Cindy Ruperthouse who disappeared in 2014, and by Indigenous women allegating that they had been victims of abuse of authority as well as sexual abuse by police officers of the Sûreté du Québec in Val-d’Or.
On March 31, 2016, a second broadcast announced new cases of allegations of abuse of authority and sexual abuse toward Indigenous women by police services in other regions of Quebec.
On November 18, 2016, the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions announced that, after the analysis of 37 files on allegations of abuse of authority and sexual abuse toward Indigenous women by police services, charges were laid for only two files.
On December 21, 2016, the Government of Quebec established a Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Quebec, whose mandate was to “to investigate, address facts and conduct analyses in order to make recommendations concerning concrete, effective, lasting remedial measures to be implemented by the Government of Québec and indigenous officials to prevent or eliminate, regardless of their origin or cause, all forms of violence, discriminatory practices and differential treatment in the delivery of public services to Québec’s indigenous people: health and social services, youth protection, correctional services, police officers, and justice.”
The RCAAQ participated in the work of the Commission by being a witness three times, as well as by submitting a position paper presenting six recommendations.Throughout the Commission’s mandate, the RCAAQ promoted awareness with the Indigenous Friendship Centres as to the importance of participating in the Commission’s work and denouncing discriminatory practices which they may have witnessed.
Individual and collective rights awareness
“Indigenous people are overrepresented in Canada’s criminal justice system as both victims and offenders.
In 2014, 28% of Indigenous people reported being victimized in the previous 12 months, compared to 18% of non-Indigenous people. The rate of violent victimization among Indigenous people was more than double that of non-Indigenous people.
Indigenous females had an overall rate of violent victimization that was double that of Indigenous males and close to triple that of non-Indigenous females.”
Source: Department of Justice Canada, January 2017.
The preceding data clearly establishes that the rate of victimization is higher for Indigenous people. Information and awareness for victims of criminal acts, their families, and their friends are therefore actions to prioritize in order to equip members to be able to face possible situations of victimization.
In 2016, the RCAAQ submitted to the Bureau d’aide aux victimes d’actes criminels (BAVAC – crime victims’ assistance office), a project entitled Victims: Know Your Rights!. In collaboration with the organization Éducaloi as well as with CAVAC, information and awareness video clips were produced for victims of criminal acts, their families, and friends.These clips deal with the whole experience of victimization in relation to the justice system. They also serve as introductory material for workshops and sharing circles facilitated by Indigenous Friendship Centre workers. They are also supported by a legal information guide specially designed for them, also in collaboration with the two organizations mentioned previously.
Others tools available
Realized by Educaloi, this guide is in question-and-answer format about what happens during the criminal process. It focuses on the reality of Indigenous people, whether they live in a city or remote community.
Justice and Public Security Advisor
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