APTN Investigates: Indigenous people in Canada behind bars

Indigenous people make up less than five per cent of the Canadian population yet account for more than 32 per cent of all incarcerated inmates.

APTN Investigates is taking viewers inside corrections facilities to see what’s really behind the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in Canada’s justice system with a special four-part series titled, Inside Corrections.

The team brings viewers with them behind the walls of some of Canada’s most notorious prisons. Inside Corrections looks to understand why Indigenous peoples are the fastest-growing prison population in the country.

“I don’t think it’s any secret that Canada’s criminal justice system has challenges and the numbers indicate that it’s Indigenous people who face a disproportionate share of the consequences,” said APTN Investigates Producer Cullen Crozier. “We have to start asking ourselves why all levels of government seem unable to reverse this alarming trend.

“In this series, we will be asking tough questions of policymakers in Ottawa and speaking with a number of current and former inmates who have been impacted by the system to provide some historical context on how we’ve arrived at this point.”

Here is what you can expect from each episode:

Episode 1: Although solitary confinement was abolished in 2019, it continues to operate under several different names. In this episode, reporter Brittany Guyot speaks to Joey Toutsaint, a federal prisoner who estimates that he has spent more than 2,000 days in isolation, battling to overcome his daily thoughts of suicide.

Episode 2: John Derek Mills is a ‘60s Scoop survivor from Waterhen Lake First Nation with a long juvenile record and a lifetime of crime that culminated in a botched armed robbery in 1996. Originally sentenced to seven years in prison, Mills is still behind bars nearly three decades later. In this episode, reporter Rob Smith talks to Mills to uncover why he has fallen through every crack in the justice system.

Episode 3: In 1994, Odelia and Nerissa Quewezance, two sisters from Keeseekoose First Nation, were convicted of second-degree murder in the death of a Saskatchewan farmer, a crime they maintain they did not commit. In this episode, reporter Priscilla Wolf speaks to Odelia, who is fighting for her freedom after spending more than 25 years in prison.

Episode 4: The Special Handling Unit (SHU) at the Regional Reception Centre is Canada’s only supermax prison, a facility to which prisoners are sent when they are deemed too dangerous for even maximum security. Two decades of reports show that Indigenous prisoners in maximum security and the SHU are disproportionately high while healing lodges for Indigenous inmates have empty beds. Reporter Tom Fennario speaks to former Indigenous SHU inmates and human rights advocates to find out if there is room for Indigenous-specific rehabilitation under such extreme conditions.

For more information, visit www.aptnnews.ca.

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