Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise on this day, a day on which the Prime Minister stood in this House to announce that we will introduce legislation to enshrine, finally, the recognition and implementation of the rights of indigenous peoples as the basis for all relations between indigenous peoples and the Government of Canada.
I was also proud to join the Minister of Justice in this take-note debate as she described in detail the hard work and great progress we have made on criminal justice reform. The many examples include Bill C-51, which would strengthen sexual assault laws; Bill C-46, which would strengthen our impaired driving laws; and Bill C-16, which would protect gender expression and identity under the charter. We have also made significant progress in renewing our relationship with indigenous peoples, one that is based on respect and the right to self-govern.
How are we doing this? We are doing it in a number of ways: one, by implementing the RCAP recommendation to create two separate departments, one that is mandated to focus on indigenous-crown relations and the other a department to focus on the provision of indigenous services; two, by embracing the UNDRIP principles; three, by the creation of the working group, which is currently reviewing all federal laws and policies to ensure that Canada is fulfilling its constitutional obligation with indigenous peoples; and four, by creating and enshrining 10 principles which inform our relationship. This is merely a starting point, in a renewed approach, where we are supporting the rebuilding of indigenous governments and nations while, in turn, reducing the use of the courts to resolve conflict.
Ultimately, this work will help assist Canada to overcome the legacy of colonization and achieve true reconciliation with indigenous peoples. This is a historic moment, one for which indigenous peoples have been advocating for many decades. As we move toward the next 150 years of Canada, we envision a country that is more inclusive of first nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. Making the shift is fundamental to the growth and prosperity of Canada.
In terms of this take-note debate, let me say a few words.
Indigenous peoples are concerned because they do not know if the criminal justice system will treat them fairly, whether they are victim or accused. As the government strives to establish a nation-to-nation relationship with indigenous peoples, we must recognize and resolve these problems.
Let me speak for a few moments about the very well-documented, systemic challenges which currently exist in our criminal justice system. In this regard, the statistics reveal a number of concerning trends.
Indigenous people are more likely than any other Canadian to be victims of crime. Indigenous people are more than twice as likely to be victims of violent crimes than non-indigenous people. Indigenous women are also three times more likely to experience sexual assault.
Over 1,200 indigenous women and girls have gone missing or have been murdered. Sixteen per cent of all women murdered in Canada from 1980 to 2014 were indigenous, although they make up 4% of Canada's female population.
In 2015-16, indigenous adults accounted for 27% of admissions to custody in provincial and territorial institutions, and 28% of admissions to federal institutions. This is about seven times higher than the proportion of indigenous adults in the Canadian adult population. The overrepresentation is more pronounced for indigenous women than it is for indigenous men. In 2014-15, 38% of female admissions to provincial custody and 31% of female admissions to federal custody were indigenous women. Indigenous youth are also overrepresented in our jails. They are only 7.5% of the Canadian youth population, but they account for 35% of admissions to provincial and territorial correctional services.
These statistics are telling, and they call on us to do the important work that is before us now. What is that work?
In light of these trends, we are taking action to improve the experience of indigenous people in the criminal justice system. Specifically, we have taken steps to strengthen programming to improve outcomes for indigenous people when they come in contact with the criminal justice system as both victims and accused.
The 2017 budget set aside approximately $11 million in permanent funding for the indigenous justice program, and the 2016 budget boosted permanent funding for the indigenous courtwork program by $4 million. These programs offer support to reduce recidivism and tackle the root causes of delinquency among indigenous individuals in an effort to reduce their contact with the criminal justice system.
Alongside the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, the Department of Justice has also undertaken two new victim service initiatives to provide direct assistance to families. The first is funding the creation of family information liaison units, a new service to help families access available information about their loved ones from multiple government sources. Second, the department is providing additional funding for indigenous community-based organizations, non-governmental organizations, and victim services to support the delivery of culturally responsive and trauma-informed services for families of missing or murdered indigenous women and girls.
Of course, we know that funding alone is not enough. That is why our government has also been engaging with indigenous people and with all Canadians to assess the problems faced by indigenous people in the criminal justice system. This engagement has taken place through round tables on our indigenous justice program. I have been privileged to participate in that broad national round table engagement process along with the Minister of Justice.
More broadly, under the leadership of the Minister of Justice, our government has also undertaken a review of Canada's criminal justice system to ensure that it is just, compassionate, and fair, and promotes a safe, peaceful, and prosperous society.
What we are hearing is that the challenges facing Canada's indigenous community, including overrepresentation, which I have already alluded to, are top of mind when it comes to this government's agenda, when it comes to consultations and reform.
As our government continues the important work towards reconciliation with indigenous peoples, we have also developed 10 principles respecting Canada's relationship with indigenous peoples, principles which base the relationship between indigenous peoples and the federal government on the right of self-determination, and relationships based on recognition and implementation of rights. The 10 principles are intended to be a starting point for a recognition-based approach to changing federal laws, policies, and operational practices that recognize indigenous peoples.
Lastly, the national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls was established in December 2015, and work began in September 2016.
The independent commission was tasked with examining the systemic causes behind the violence that indigenous women and girls experience and their vulnerability to violence, as well as the institutional policies and practices put in place as a response to violence, including those that have been effective in reducing violence and increasing safety. The commission was then asked to make recommendations on concrete measures to end this national tragedy and honour and commemorate missing and murdered individuals.
What are the steps moving forward? While the important initiatives I have described are critical to improving the experience of indigenous peoples, our government recognizes that we can and must do better for all Canadians. While it would be inappropriate for me to speak about the specific circumstances around the Stanley case, we must recognize the historic patterns that exclude and victimize indigenous Canadians. Part of our work in understanding and recognizing victimization is to meet with and listen to indigenous Canadians. Listening to Canadians in this way and expressing our empathy does not undermine the operation of the criminal justice system; rather, it will serve to strengthen it. Some of the concerns we have heard this week relate to the jury selection process, and the Minister of Justice has indicated our government's willingness to look at those provisions as part of our overall criminal justice review.
More broadly, our government, led by the Department of Justice, is currently developing an action plan to reduce the overrepresentation of indigenous peoples in the criminal justice system, both as victims and as offenders. The goal of this action plan is to advance federal efforts toward responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action respecting adult and youth indigenous overrepresentation. We will continue to develop the action plan through engagement with indigenous partners and collaboration with provincial and territorial governments.
In conclusion, all Canadians know that we can and must do more to reshape the experience of indigenous Canadians in our criminal justice system. We must do this work in partnership with indigenous peoples, recognizing our role and our efforts to continue on the path of reconciliation.