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Indigenous Over-Representation - Jorgina

Indigenous people are over-represented in Canada’s Criminal Justice System, both as victims and as offenders. Indigenous adults represent 4.1% of the total Canadian adult population, but 26% of adults in federal custody. There are many reasons for this, including:

  • Various social and economic factors and conditions
  • Lack of access to services and supports
  • Intergenerational trauma
  • Discrimination in the system

What do you think can be done to better support Indigenous people across the Criminal Justice System? Learn about Jorgina's story below. You can also watch Devon's story.

Transcript

On Screen Text/Warning:

This is a story from real people, told in their own words.

It contains information about themes that may be difficult for some audiences.

Jorgina Sunn

My name is Jorgina Sunn and I’m a survivor of the Canadian justice system as well as a survivor of the Child Welfare System.

Both my parents were survivors of the residential school and as a result of their experience there, how it impacted their lives so it impacted, myself and, and my brothers and my sisters. We travelled into, various foster homes, and in those foster homes endured through all kinds of different abuses; sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse. So, I was deprived of love and nurturing and safety. And, because I was deprived of those things how it manifested into a lack of self-worth, no identity whatsoever and ultimately being completely fearful, all the time, of the adults in my life. So, I found myself wrapped and caught in a crack-cocaine addiction, alcoholism. I found myself, you know, in and out of abusive relationships and ultimately serving various bits of time and then ultimately finding myself in a federal penitentiary for the trafficking of cocaine.

FACT: Indigenous adults represent 4.1% of the total Canadian adult population, but 26% of adults in federal custody.

The solution is, is to just lock-up Aboriginal people. This is the solution for people who are broken today is to put them, to put them in prison.

Being Aboriginal means you’re a lesser person. And so, in those institutions, you’re treated as a lesser person. Even if what I’m doing is wrong, ultimately, there’s a reason why I, I’m doing these things and so, in those places, you know, there was never the, the space or the opportunity or the safety to find out why.

FACT: Indigenous youth make up 39% of youth in provincial or territorial jail.

The correctional guards, the police, the arresting officers, the judges, the lawyers who weren’t willing to try to understand why I was doing the things that I was doing, the hatred and resentment that I carried for many years towards all the systems that failed me since I was…

Punishing isn’t working. We need more places of healing. We need better understanding of, of what trauma and dysfunction looks like.

Father Andre, Founder STR8 UP

Every jail should be turned into a, a rehabilitation centre and if the guys don’t want to take advantage of that, then that’s their choice. But, a lot of guys would.

STR8 UP is a grassroots organization that assists individuals in mastering their own destiny in liberating themselves from gangs and criminals street lifestyles.

It is based in Saskatoon.

Jorgina Sunn

People are having conversations finally that there is this overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in the justice system. So, what are we going to do to change it? What are you going to do for all the people that have experienced the things that I’ve experienced, not by choice, as a young person. How do we stop those cycles? Prison is not the answer.

How can we transform Canada’s criminal justice system to better address indigenous over-representation? Join the online discussion on this page and share your ideas. To learn more go to justicetransformation.ca

End

Overlay Facts Used in the Video

  • Indigenous adults represent 4.1% of the total Canadian adult population, but 26% of adults in federal custody (Source: Public Safety 2017. Corrections and Conditional Release Statistical Overview: 2016 Annual Report).
  • Indigenous youth make up 39% of youth in provincial or territorial jail (Source: Youth correctional statistics in Canada, 2015/2016, Statistics Canada)
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