Evidence of meeting #83 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 métis.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Vicki Chartrand  Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Bishop's University, As an Individual
Véronique Picard  Justice Coordinator, Quebec Native Women Inc.
Jonathan Rudin  Program Director, Aboriginal Legal Services
Melanie Omeniho  President, Women of the Métis Nation
Felice Yuen  Associate Professor, Concordia University, As an Individual

12:50 p.m.

President, Women of the Métis Nation

Melanie Omeniho

You're going to ask me to get really political here, but—

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

We're a bunch of politicians, so....

12:50 p.m.

President, Women of the Métis Nation

Melanie Omeniho

All I know is that I am a Métis of the northwest, and I'm part of the Canadian Constitution as one of the indigenous people of this country. I don't have to defend that anymore, because that's who I am. I've already been to all the courts, and I don't mean “I” as in me, but “I” as in the Métis Nation. We've already done that.

At this point, it's up to us to work towards saying who we are and what we are, as well as working with other governments in a nation-to-nation process to ensure that the rights of Métis people are recognized, appreciated, and respected, and that as a nation we continue to grow in a healthy way. That's my political statement.

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

That's good. Thank you. We appreciate it.

I've been in a men's prison with a healing lodge. The problem they had with it was that it was oversubscribed by white prisoners. They were in it, and it created real problems in the sense that these are very popular.

12:55 p.m.

Program Director, Aboriginal Legal Services

Jonathan Rudin

I was recently at the KwIkwèxwelhp centre near Abbotsford. They are popular. Indigenous healing lodges, from CSC's perspective, are not restricted to indigenous people. Anyone can go who wants to participate. The problem there was that they couldn't get enough indigenous inmates. I think they were 10% to 20% non-indigenous, and it was because non-indigenous men were able to get down to minimum security more quickly than the indigenous men.

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

The question I have is about healing lodges. So that it doesn't get to what you're saying and what I've seen, how do you replicate them on a broader scale across the country? How do we get to this?

12:55 p.m.

Program Director, Aboriginal Legal Services

Jonathan Rudin

I think the communities have answers, whether they be urban communities or reserve communities. I think Dr. Yuen's point is very significant. Many people who go to prison have no sense of their indigenous identity other than the vague sense that they're indigenous. Tragically, as someone in the last set of speakers mentioned, some people only start to learn about indigenous identity in prison. Then, when they get out, you hope they will learn more and will pursue the paths they need to learn more about their culture.

We operate in Toronto, and there are hundreds of indigenous restorative justice programs across the country. They know how to work with indigenous people. This is not knowledge that doesn't exist. It is simply taking existing knowledge and allowing it to be applied to people when they get out of prison.

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Bernadette, we have two minutes left for you.

December 7th, 2017 / 12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

Thank you, Chair.

Thank to our witnesses for being here today.

Ms. Omeniho, we heard last week from the Department of Justice that women are less likely to identify and, therefore, have a harder time accessing some of the programs that are available to them. Yet one of the things you're talking about is making sure that we do identify.

Is there a way you see that we can move forward with making sure that indigenous people get the support services they are eligible for?

12:55 p.m.

President, Women of the Métis Nation

Melanie Omeniho

One thing I would say is that, especially in corrections, if people understood their responsibilities and their rights as individuals within the system, they'd feel a lot more comfortable to identify. If identifying as an indigenous person in an institution is going to put me into the gang unit, I don't want to be there either. I'm going to say, “No, I'm not.” If the opportunity were given that would help them understand that we could start dealing with some more restorative kinds of programming to assist them to reintegrate into the community and get out of the crises they're in and deal with their issues, I think you would go a long way towards people probably being able to say, “Yes, I'm this person.”

I also agree that many people don't even deal with what their cultural identity is until they're introduced to it in a more positive way. Unfortunately, sometimes corrections might be that way.

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

To your point when you said you wouldn't identify if it meant you were going to go to a gang unit, is that something that's prevalent? Is there profiling done?

I get that there is, but is there evidence to support that? Where would we find it?

12:55 p.m.

President, Women of the Métis Nation

Melanie Omeniho

I'm not sure where you would find the evidence, but I know there have been studies done, even on profiling by way of carding, for instance, which is going on in our communities right now. I don't think you'd have to look very far to find a lot of that evidence.

1 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

Thank you.

1 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Excellent. What a great panel today.

I'd really like to thank Jonathan Rudin, Melanie Omeniho, and Dr. Felice Yuen for coming out today.

Just as a reminder, on Tuesday for one hour, on our panel we have West Coast Prison Justice Society, Prisoners' Legal Services; and also West Coast Women's Legal Education and Action Fund.

Our second panel consists of Siksika Nation; Lois Frank, instructor in native American studies and criminal justice, University of Lethbridge; as well as the Indigenous Bar Association.

Thank you. Today's meeting is adjourned.