October 16, 2014 12:24 pm
Updated: October 16, 2014 1:44 pm

Report flags ‘severe’ over-representation of aboriginals in Manitoba jails

Aboriginal people make up a staggeringly high proportion of Manitoba's prison population, according to a new report.

File/The Canadian Press

WINNIPEG – Aboriginal people make up a staggeringly high proportion of Manitoba’s prison population, according to a new report.

The Fraser Institute, a right-leaning private think-tank, released The Cost of Crime in Canada Thursday.

Aboriginal people made up 71 per cent of the prison population in Manitoba in 2008-09, while accounting for only 12 per cent of the overall population of the province, the report says.

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Over-representation of aboriginal people in the corrections system is a problem across Canada, but it is “overwhelmingly severe” in Manitoba, Saskatchewan (80 per cent) and Alberta (40 per cent), the report says.

Aboriginal offenders are also far more likely to be incarcerated than out on probation or serving conditional sentences in the community, the report suggests.

The Fraser Institute report echoes earlier figures: Statistics Canada reported in 2007-08, 69 per cent of Manitoba’s prison population was aboriginal. The Fraser Institute report Thursday also notes the proportion of aboriginal offenders in the justice system has risen steadily and continues to rise.

First Nations leaders have long slammed the justice system for unfairly targeting aboriginal people.

“Rather than governments addressing the root causes of the issues impacting First Nations people in this country, this government blames the victims and as a result the penitentiary system has become a warehouse for our citizens in this country,” Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak wrote in 2013.

Aboriginal people are also twice as likely as non-aboriginal people to be victims of violent crime, the Fraser Institute reports.

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