A One-Day Snapshot of Aboriginal Youth in Custody Across Canada : Phase II



2.1 Snapshot Data Collection

Each province and territory in Canada [3] was provided with a standardized Youth Information Form to be completed on all youth in custody on Snapshot Day (see Appendix A). The jurisdictions agreed to collect the data using a combination of manual file reviews, extractions from automated systems and interviews with youth. In addition, all custody facilities in each province and territory completed a standardized Facility Information Form , which provided details of the custody institutions (see Appendix B). The data collection instruments were initially developed by the Department of Justice Canada and reviewed by the National Youth Justice Research Advisory Working Group, which is comprised of federal, provincial and territorial government representatives.

Eleven of the twelve participating jurisdictions collected the Snapshot data on June 4, 2003 . For logistical reasons, Ontario collected the data on June 25, 2003 for Phase II youth (aged 16 and 17 years) and July 25, 2003 for Phase I youth (aged 12 to 15 years).

In order to calculate incarceration rates, the 2001 Census was used to determine the population counts of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth in each province and territory. [4] Although many of the individuals in custody on Snapshot Day were older than 17 years of age, all were between the ages of 12 and 17 at the time of their offence. Therefore, the common denominator used for the calculations was youth aged 12 to 17 years.

Many of the individuals in custody have been charged or found guilty of multiple offences. In order to provide summary statements on each individual, the most serious offence (MSO) for those serving custody sentences and the most serious charge (MSC) for those serving remand were selected to represent the individual. [5]

2.2 Sharing Circle Data Collection

In addition to the Snapshot data, qualitative data were collected using a Sharing Circle method with Aboriginal youth in custodial facilities between June 2003 and August 2003. [6] The Sharing Circle Research Team, lead by an Aboriginal Elder, conducted Sharing Circles in facilities in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, and the Northwest Territories (see Appendix C for a complete list of facilities).

During the Sharing Circles, topics were introduced by the Elder and then each youth was passed a 'talking stone' and provided with time to share their experiences on the particular subject. The participants were asked to discuss topics such as alcohol and drug use, home life, experiences in custody, and ideas for effective programming to promote rehabilitation. An Aboriginal note-taker was hired to document the discussion and provide written notes for analysis.

  • [3] While Quebec participated in the original 2000 Snapshot, the province declined to participate in the 2003 Snapshot. As a result, all figures in this report exclude Quebec .
  • [4] Some individuals in the Census are missed for various reasons, which is termed undercoverage. Undercoverage is considerably higher among Aboriginal people than among other segments of the population due to the fact that enumeration is not permitted, or is interrupted before it could be completed, on some reserves and settlements with primarily Aboriginal residents. For this reason, the incarceration rates included in this report for Aboriginal youth may be slightly elevated.
  • [5] The most serious offence and the most serious charge were determined using the Seriousness Index developed by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada - see Youth Information Form in Appendix A.
  • [6] Qualitative data do not allow generalizations to the greater population being studied (i.e., Aboriginal youth in custody). As such, the comments of the Sharing Circle participants should not be viewed as representative of all Aboriginal youth in custody and clearly not representative of Aboriginal youth in general.
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