The lack of remand centres for Indigenous women on Vancouver Island

Elizabeth May

Mr. Chair, I completely agree with my hon. colleague and neighbour from Nanaimo—Ladysmith that we need to move to remove mandatory minimums from our criminal justice legislation.

Almost two years ago I introduced a private member’s bill, Bill C-269. It was a lot of work actually to cull all the individual mandatory minimums that had been brought in under the Harper era and put them in one private member’s bill to make it easy to get rid of all of them, except for those for the most serious of crimes where we would not want to remove them.

I also note that the situation on Vancouver Island for indigenous women is particularly egregious. I want to offer my colleague the opportunity to speak to the lack of remand centres for indigenous women on Vancouver Island, and the additional specific discriminatory treatment that they face due to this lack of facilities. I ask if she would like to comment further on the systemic discrimination in criminal justice, particularly as it applies to us locally on Vancouver Island.

Sheila Malcolmson – Member for Ladysmith-Nanaimo

Mr. Chair, the separation of indigenous women from their communities and families when they have to leave our region to be incarcerated in other facilities compounds the problems that got them into the justice system in the first place. They become increasingly isolated.

We heard a very interesting circularity from a number of the witnesses. Gladue reports are supposed to bring into sentencing additional considerations around the impact of residential schools or of children being in foster care. The indigenous women at committee are telling us that the Gladue reports are having the opposite effect. They are identifying them as a higher-risk inmate. They are putting them into more isolation and more segregation, which makes them unable to participate in the programming that happens within the jails, which makes them ineligible for the nice earlier parole, the controlled release from prison. This means that they are even more likely to be dislocated from their families, dislocated from their culture, and maybe more likely to reoffend. It is a mess and the government has work to do. We want to work with the government.