The over-representation of Indigenous peoples in British Columbia’s prisons is a destructive cycle that must be broken, Prime Minister David Eby said as he officially opened a First Nations justice center in the Fraser Valley.
Indigenous people make up about five percent of BC’s population but account for about 30 percent of people in county jails, Eby said Monday.
“One of the things we need to do in our county is make sure we address the core issues that put people in conflict with the justice system, in conflict with the law, in conflict with their neighbors and communities,” he said at a press conference. press conference in Chilliwack, east of Vancouver.
“A lifetime in and out of prison doesn’t make anyone any safer,” he said. “It doesn’t address the core issues that cause that cycle. We need to break that cycle.”
The government is working with the Indigenous-led BC First Nations Justice Council to push forward with measures launched three years ago that reflect the justice system reforms envisioned by Indigenous people, Eby said.
The Chilliwack facility will provide culturally appropriate information and support to Indigenous peoples struggling with legal issues in the Fraser Valley area.
BC already has Indigenous Justice Centers in Prince Rupert, Prince George and Merritt, as well as a Virtual Center serving the province. There are plans to expand to a total of 15 locations over the next three years.
Eby also announced $10 million to support community-based First Nations justice programs aimed at addressing conditions that may have led to crime and ensure that individual housing, mental health and addiction treatment needs are met. is fulfilled.
“If we want to break the cycle for someone who is Indigenous and involved in that cycle, we need to have culturally appropriate responses that meet the needs of where they are,” he said.
“That’s the only way we’ll be successful.”
Eby said the BC First Nations Justice Council is undertaking work that is critical “to address the over-representation of Indigenous peoples in our justice system.”
Kory Wilson, chair of the BC First Nations Justice Council, said the BC government has “shown the courage to do things differently so that indigenous people can lead the way in our path of justice and right the injustices of the past can put”.
She said the purpose of the provincial justice centers is to show indigenous peoples are breaking the cycle of incarceration.
“We are committed to ensuring that all four justice centers have the most effective, most appropriate culturally sensitive (services),” Wilson said.
A BC government statement said the Chilliwack Indigenous Justice Center will provide services including legal counsel, connections to local support services and assistance in developing a personalized restorative justice plan.
Eby said helping individuals with legal support and healing opportunities builds safer communities for all.
Sto:lo Nation chief Doug Kelly called the judicial center “a positive first step to set things right.”
He agreed with Eby that efforts should be made to investigate the underlying causes.
“Sending those who are hurt and have hurt others to graduate school, otherwise known as correctional facilities, (is) not helping.”