Thank you very much. I have some brief comments to make regarding the bill.
Tansi, boozhoo, edlanet'e, and good afternoon, Mr. Chair, members of the committee, and Madam Secretary.
On behalf of the northern Manitoba first nations, of which there are 30, and the 65,000 first nations citizens represented by the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak—MKO—I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to provide these brief comments and recommendations regarding Bill C-350, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (accountability of offenders).
It's a core vision of the 30 MKO first nations that each of the MKO first nations should be the safest and most secure place to live for each of the citizens of the MKO first nations. The MKO first nations first and foremost are committed to achieving the highest standards of public and community safety and security based on community-driven preventive and restorative approaches supported by community-based policing.
It is the objective of these initiatives to place an emphasis on reconciliation between the victim and the community and the offender, and on the rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders as productive members of the family and the community. This vision also reflects the inherent and customary laws and the community and cultural values of the MKO first nations.
Bill C-350 proposes that reconciliation between the victim and the offender might be advanced by ensuring that any amounts owing and payable by Her Majesty to the offender are instead paid directly by Her Majesty to the victim in accordance with the priority that's established in proposed subsection 78.1(1).
Clause 2 of Bill C-350 proposes to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act by including the new subsection 78.1(1), which would provide that “any debt owed to an offender as a result of a monetary award made to the offender by a court, tribunal or agency pursuant to a legal action or proceeding against Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada or an agent or employee of Her Majesty in the course of the performance of his or her duties, shall be satisfied by the payment”, according to the order of priority established in the proposed bill.
MKO is very concerned that the classes of monetary awards contemplated in Bill C-350, being a monetary award made to the offender by a court, tribunal or agency pursuant to a legal action or proceeding against Her Majesty in Right of Canada, would include a payment or award made to an offender pursuant to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, which settlement has been approved by the courts. Subject to check, it's my recollection there are at least nine court orders approving the Indian residential schools settlement as a series of class actions.
First nations persons receiving a payment or award further to the Indian residential schools settlement are recognized essentially as victims as well. The payment or award is essentially a form of restitution for the victimization of these first nation persons through the Indian residential schools system. The apology delivered on June 11, 2008 by the Prime Minister represents a recognition by government of the significant impacts of the Indian residential schools system on many thousands of first nation citizens. Further recognition in Canada's legal system of the potential impacts of colonization, including the effects of the Indian residential schools system on the circumstances of aboriginal offenders, appears in paragraph 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code.
Paragraph 718.2(e) requires a sentencing judge to give particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal offenders in considering whether an alternative to incarceration may be more appropriate in the circumstances. In R. v. Gladue, the 1999 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, that responsibility or obligation of the court was reinforced for sentencing considerations in the case of aboriginal offenders.
In Canada, 20% of inmates in federal prisons are aboriginal people. In Manitoba, 70% of the inmates in provincial facilities and 50% of the inmates in the two federal institutions are aboriginal persons. However aboriginal peoples make up only 15% of Manitoba's population and about 4% of the population of Canada. In Manitoba, aboriginal offenders are sent to prison more often than non-aboriginal offenders. Aboriginal offenders in Manitoba make up more than two-thirds of offenders in custody, but less than half of those serving conditional sentences.
In part, the significant and disproportional representation of aboriginal offenders in Canada's justice processes arises from the persisting effects of the Indian residential school system on the survivors and their families and communities. It is important to recognize that many aboriginal offenders are also survivors and are also, therefore, victims of the Indian residential school system.
It would be inappropriate and contrary to the intent of the apology and to the objectives of the Indian residential schools settlement for Her Majesty to effectively seize a payment or award made by Her Majesty as restitution to the offender, who is also a survivor of the residential school system, when this survivor's offence can at least in part be attributed to the adverse effects of the Indian residential school system.
In respect of Bill C-350, MKO recommends that clause 2 of the bill be amended to expressly exclude or provide an exception for any payment or award made further to the Indian residential schools settlement agreement from those classes of monetary awards proposed to be encompassed through proposed section 78.1 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
MKO further recommends that persons expert in matters related to the Indian residential schools settlement agreement appear before the standing committee to provide evidence in respect of the settlement and of the court-supervised nature of the settlement process.
Those are my opening comments.
Ekosani. Mahsi' cho. Meegwetch.
Thank you very much.