Evidence of meeting #82 for Status of Women in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was rcmp.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Michael Ferguson  Auditor General of Canada, Office of the Auditor General
Carol McCalla  Principal, Office of the Auditor General
Elizabeth Hendy  Director General, Programs Branch, Policy Sector, Department of Justice
Shirley Cuillierrier  Assistant Commissioner, Senior Advisor on Reconciliation and the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

12:35 p.m.

Director General, Programs Branch, Policy Sector, Department of Justice

Elizabeth Hendy

That was a very bad choice of words on my part.

A lot of people don't identify as to whether they're indigenous or not. The court workers are from the community, so they basically know who is indigenous. They will approach these individuals. Some of these individuals wouldn't know that they could have assistance in the courtroom, so they do approach them.

Many court workers will approach everybody in the courtroom and ask if they need assistance—women in particular—and then they will walk them through the process.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

Do you educate legal aid and all of those people with regard to these programs and what's available?

12:40 p.m.

Director General, Programs Branch, Policy Sector, Department of Justice

Elizabeth Hendy

Yes, absolutely.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

All right.

With regard to your indigenous justice program, you provide funding for community-based programs that use restorative justice approaches as an alternative to the mainstream justice system. What are the community guidelines for implementing those approaches?

12:40 p.m.

Director General, Programs Branch, Policy Sector, Department of Justice

Elizabeth Hendy

Those programs are based on the needs of each community.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

They're different everywhere.

12:40 p.m.

Director General, Programs Branch, Policy Sector, Department of Justice

Elizabeth Hendy

Sometimes they're reintegration programs. There are diversion programs and prevention programs. It truly depends on what is the need of the community and the offender population within that community.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

Thank you very much.

I'm going to you, Shirley. In your statement, you said that although the RCMP has a long history of working co-operatively with Indigenous people, for some, there remains a feeling of fear and distrust towards the police and criminal justice system. How do we overcome that?

That's a big question.

12:40 p.m.

Supt Shirley Cuillierrier

It is a big question. I think that at the root of it is education. I think we have a lot of work to do on that front.

As much as I feel that our organization is doing a lot, every now and then I'm surprised by the comments that are made. I really do think that education is at the root of this. I think of the TRC report and the 94 calls to action. A lot of it is premised on education. I think of it reciprocally because, with a foot in both worlds, sometimes it's incumbent on indigenous people as well, perhaps, to understand why systems are the way they are.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

Further to that question, one of the things you said was that police provide a transparent, responsive, respectful, and culturally appropriate response.

I guess I'm wondering about the training that goes into the culturally appropriate responses. Is there a good training program? Could it be better? When we're trying to find ways to get rid of distrust, it would seem to me that if we can speak culturally appropriately on each thing.... I'm wondering where the training is on that. Is there a good training program? Do you feel that it needs work?

12:40 p.m.

Supt Shirley Cuillierrier

We use a multitude of programs, and we consult quite a bit before we engage in any process. As an example, the Kairos blanket exercise is very well used, both at a community level and with federal departments right now. We introduced it this past week at our training academy in Regina, and it's going to be something that's mandatory for every troop coming through depot going forward.

Then, when you graduate from the training academy and you're deployed somewhere in the country, it's important to have additional training within the region or the nation, or perhaps if you're working with Inuit or Métis. You need to be able to understand the traditional practices of that community, whether it's going to have tea with an elder or accessing what we have in many of our provinces, which is regionally specific training called “aboriginal perceptions training” for our members and our employees who are working in that area.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

I want to ask about the restorative justice programs you're involved with. Has there been time to do a study to show the percentage of people who reoffend and have gone through restorative justice, as opposed to those who have not?

12:40 p.m.

Supt Shirley Cuillierrier

We're not that far down the road. Essentially, I call it dusting off and re-evaluating. We're working quite a bit with Justice, both federally and in some cases at a provincial level—in Nova Scotia and Manitoba—to try to increase our referrals, but we have to build structures at the community level and essentially get the buy-in from the community, right? We're in the process of redesigning strategies and the consultation base.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

I'm just going to go back Ms. Hendy. With regard to the justice partnership and innovation program's goal of reducing the vulnerability of young indigenous women, are we talking economic empowerment or education? What are we doing to address the systemic problems?

12:45 p.m.

Director General, Programs Branch, Policy Sector, Department of Justice

Elizabeth Hendy

That is a big question. It's based on a call for proposals, so it would depend on what comes in. Sometimes it's awareness building. Sometimes it's working with women within the community to set up new protocols, depending on whether it's family violence, depending on what the issue is. It's very project-specific, but the overall objective of that fund is to figure out what we could do to help address the systemic issues. We're working with each individual community that we can. We have limited funding, but we're doing what we can based on the needs expressed to us through calls for proposals.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Excellent. Thank you very much.

We're now going to move to Rachael Harder for seven minutes.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Thank you.

I'm going to ask my first question to the Auditor General.

I know, under the former Conservative government, that one of the initiatives that was put forward was to increase the number of healing lodges available. I'm just wondering if you can maybe give some background as to why that was thought to be important in terms of policy with regard to indigenous peoples.

12:45 p.m.

Principal, Office of the Auditor General

Carol McCalla

Certainly, there have been recommendations made in the past to increase the number of healing lodges available, particularly for women offenders. There are only two healing lodges that operate for women offenders, one in Saskatchewan and one in Manitoba. Those two healing lodges are operating at capacity.

The problem, again, that CSC has is the low number of indigenous offenders in other regions of Canada. The healing lodges involve a very intensive approach working with elders. We have recommended to them that they come up with options to provide greater access to healing lodges for indigenous women. It was one of the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as well.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Okay, that's good. Thank you.

My next question is going to go to the justice department. I just want to talk a little bit about the Gladue principle, which is basically the idea that judges are meant to consider the intergenerational trauma of indigenous offenders in order to best sentence them and provide rehabilitation programs to them.

Now, some have said, or made the accusation, that this is basically a race-based discount on sentencing. Can you just comment on that and maybe just talk a bit about what the Gladue principle is trying to accomplish and how that fits within our constitutional framework?

12:45 p.m.

Director General, Programs Branch, Policy Sector, Department of Justice

Elizabeth Hendy

Okay. I'll preface my remarks by saying that I'm not with criminal law policy. I'm implementing the law; I'm not designing the law. But in my understanding of the Gladue principle, section 718.2, paragraph (e) of the Criminal Code, it is to give special consideration to indigenous offenders to better understand the underlying conditions leading to crime. No, it is not a race discount. That section is open to all offenders with special consideration to indigenous...so it is open to everybody.

We understand that judges are looking for the factors contributing to crime. If a judge has a better understanding of the social history of the individual.... Gladue reports are very different than a pre-sentence report. A pre-sentence report would give you risk factors. A Gladue report would give a very detailed history of the individual from childhood to where they now within the system, and what impacts in their history could have led to this crime. Are there addictions or mental health issues? Are there family trauma issues? Was there residential school or something there? If a judge has a better understanding of what perhaps led to the crime, then that can help set better conditions for sentencing.

Also, it can help our colleagues at Correctional Service Canada. The Gladue report can be given to the Correctional Service. They could then use that in combination with their social history reports to better set up case management plans for these individuals when they are in the facility. They then can use the Gladue report, because there will be recommendations in there on what would be appropriate for when they go back into the community. Therefore, you can start planning for their reintegration and use that information to better work with the individual when they are back in the community and, hopefully, prevent recidivism and the issues that led to crime in the first place.

I'm not a lawyer, but I would strongly state that a Gladue report is not a discount. It is a document that helps the judiciary in making an informed decision, and it places better conditions on that individual to account for criminality and to hopefully rehabilitate the individual so that we don't see them back before the court.

December 5th, 2017 / 12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Thank you.

Along those same lines then, one thing that was talked about was the fact that many of these indigenous women who are incarcerated—the vast majority, it could be argued—report that they were abused or victimized sometime in their past. It would appear that there's a link between being victimized and then being a perpetrator yourself.

I'm just wondering if you can comment on how the justice system within Canada could better help these women to come forward with their stories when they're victims, in order to seek the help they need at that point in time, both on a justice side of things, of course, in making sure that the accused is brought to justice, but also to make sure that these individuals are given the assistance that they need to come through to the other side of healing and restoration for themselves, for their own lives. Are you able to comment on that?

12:50 p.m.

Director General, Programs Branch, Policy Sector, Department of Justice

Elizabeth Hendy

Absolutely. In fact, most indigenous people who come before the criminal justice system, you could argue, are victims themselves, whether they are there as an offender or a victim at the time. Therefore, through our victims fund we are trying to work with victims services across the country to set up programming to better help these individuals heal.

Our family information liaison units that we've set up in relation to the national inquiry is a good example of how we're trying to work from the victim's perspective. Individuals are looking for information about their missing and murdered loved ones. Perhaps they didn't have the information given to them appropriately the first time. Perhaps they didn't understand it. Perhaps they were told they couldn't have that information. Therefore, through the FILUs we're trying to work with them and refer them back to the appropriate source—perhaps it could be with the police, or it could be with social services—so that they can get a better understanding of what happened, why they can't have the information, or where they could go to get that information.

Definitely we're trying to have a full perspective in trying to heal communities and individuals.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Thank you.

I have just a very quick question for the RCMP. Can you just give a bit of background in terms of these missing and murdered aboriginal women? Are there trends in terms of their backgrounds, where they come from, what their home lives were like, etc.?

12:50 p.m.

Supt Shirley Cuillierrier

We haven't done that analysis. We're monitoring all of the family hearings that are going on, and we're certainly reviewing the files that implicate the RCMP.

When we did our operational overview back in 2014, we actually delved a bit more into the numbers. We recognized that there were some communities in the country that were particularly vulnerable, and that's where we sent our subject matter experts to work with the communities, to talk about human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and to try to build some capacity at the community level and also a recognition that there's a high level of violence in this community against your women and your girls. How are we going to work together to deal with the root causes?

Sometimes it's signalling and then getting in the community to actually mobilize people around the issue, but—

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

We're going to have to go to our next line of questioning. I let you go over a little bit.

Perhaps we could move to Sheila Malcolmson for her seven minutes.