Twenty-five years after the “Report of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry of Manitoba” enumerated its root causes of crime in Indigenous communities – poverty, lack of education, unemployment, poor health – it has been recently reported that while these causes have undergone no change, marginal change, or moderate degrees of change for the better, incarceration rates have skyrocketed in the opposite direction.
Onkwehon:we unemployment has barely improved over the quarter century, as did measures of Onkwehon:we health, showing double the premature death rates over Canadians, twice the infant mortality rate, and far higher rates of diabetes, obesity, tuberculosis, heart disease and other ailments.
There has been no change in the housing situation, as a quarter of all on-reserve units need major repairs and two-thirds remain overcrowded. Poverty statistics continue to show a poverty level of 30 percent below the Canadian average. More recent reports from the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives shows that over half of all Onkwehon:we children live in poverty, a number that climbs beyond 60% in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
The only factor to have changed considerably compared to the study 25 years ago is the incarceration rate of Onkwehon:we. The Aboriginal Justice Inquiry condemned the over-incarceration of Onkwehon:we, at a time when 40% of Manitoba’s prison population were native. As of 2011, that number had risen to 70%, even though Onkwehon:we in Manitoba make up only 13% of the population.