Mr. Tom Lukiwski (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform, CPC)
Mr. Speaker, Canada's new government is committed to ensuring an effective and fair federal corrections system that protects Canadians as the overarching priority.
Correctional Service Canada is committed to partnering with communities in the development of innovative community based approaches for offender healing and reintegration. There are many factors that may have contributed to the overrepresentation of aboriginals in the prison system and our government acknowledges the challenges many aboriginals have in addressing poverty, education and substance abuse.
CSC is dealing with changing inmate populations. This includes an increasing percentage of aboriginal offenders which research has shown to be younger, more likely to commit violent crimes, have lower levels of education, and are less likely than the general population to be employed when admitted to custody. This leads them to be classified as higher risk and higher need inmates.
Higher risk and higher need inmates are placed in high security levels, are kept in jails longer, and are less likely to be released on some form of conditional release. It is for this reason that Canada's new government is committed to preventing crime from taking place. The 2006 budget allocated $20 million over two years for communities to prevent youth crimes with a focus on guns, gangs and drugs. By supporting our citizens, and youth in particular, we will hopefully prevent incarceration from taking place.
At the same time, the issue of aboriginal overrepresentation is a concern of CSC and the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
That is why in 2006 CSC launched its five year strategic plan for aboriginal corrections with commitment to action in three key areas. First, there would be program and service delivery through further development of the continuum of care model in consultation with aboriginal leaders and communities. Second, there would be enhanced collaboration with other stakeholders, and third, systematic barriers would be addressed through an enhanced organizational capacity to work effectively with aboriginal offenders and their communities.
Aboriginal offenders attend programs under the guidance of elders, aboriginal liaison officers and elders helpers. These programs are a means to promote and encourage traditional, cultural and spiritual healing that increases positive reintegration into the community recognizing the hurdles that have prevented aboriginal people from full participation in Canadian society and making commitments toward healing and renewal.
CSC is also working in areas such as aboriginal liaison services in spiritual services. An aboriginal specific substance abuse treatment program and sex offender treatment initiatives are under development. Healing lodges developed in collaboration with aboriginal communities provide supportive healing and reintegration environments. As well, the National Parole Board utilizes elder and other forms of assisted hearings in all regions of Canada. These hearings allow the Parole Board to make more thorough assessments about an inmate's likelihood of successful release.
The Government of Canada has a major role in ensuring strong and safe aboriginal communities. That commitment is taken very seriously.
The department's first nations policing program, with agreements in some 300 first nation communities, helps foster better relationships with first nations by providing culturally appropriate professional police services. These services meet local needs and are leaders in crime prevention.
The aboriginal community corrections initiative has proven to be a successful program. It is designed to treat offenders, victims and their families, and has produced other community wide benefits.