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B.C. Indigenous leader slams province’s plan for repeat offenders

A First Nations chief in northern British Columbia criticizes the province’s plan to deal with prolific offenders, saying it is doomed if it does not involve Indigenous leadership.

Thusday, Attorney General David Eby and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announced what they called a “creative” solution to address concerns raised about the impact of repeat offenders in communities that have been raised by the United Nations caucus. urban mayors of British Columbia. The first step was to commission a study on the causes of chronic crime, which will also provide the province with recommendations on how to deal with the problem.

Farnworth said it will take efforts from local police, the provincial government, prosecutors and mental health workers to deal with this trend in crime, which began during the pandemic.

Nits’ilʔin (Chief) Joe Alphonse is the Tribal Chairman of the National Tŝilhqot’in Government, which represents six communities near Williams Lake. He says he watched the ad and was immediately struck by what was not mentioned.

“Not once did they mention Indigenous involvement, and yet they say they’re going to ‘get creative,'” Alphonse told CTV News.

“To me, it feels like the same old tricks they’ve rolled out over and over again, the cowboy approach to dealing with justice. Over and over, they get the same results, and yet they keep thinking it’s wrong. is the answer. … To be creative, they need to engage Indigenous leaders across BC.”

The study will be led by Doug LePard – former Deputy Chief of the Vancouver Police Department and former Chief of Police for Metro Vancouver Transit – and Amanda Butler, a criminologist and health researcher specializing in mental health, substance use disorders of substances, criminal justice systems and prison health. , depending on the province.

The study will take 120 days, although the province says it will accept the recommendations before the end of the study period if investigators find there are actions that can be taken immediately.

In his own community, Alphonse says he “had to deal with more prolific offenders than most probation officers”, adding that he did so without any dedicated funding from any municipal, provincial or federal government. .

“We continue to work with them and they continue to be part of our community,” he said.

One of Alphonse’s main concerns is that the recommendations will include more funding for the police and tougher penalties for offenders.

“The RCMP themselves still have a lot of work to do, there’s still a lot of systemic racism. Until they address it, providing them with more funding won’t solve anything,” Alphonse said.

Given the rate at which Indigenous people are incarcerated in Canada’s federal prisons and otherwise involved in the criminal justice system, Alphonse says he worries about solutions that are not community-based or culturally appropriate.

“There’s nothing creative about their approach. Period,” he said.

In 2021, The Correctional Investigator of Canada Dr. Ivan Zinger has described the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in the country’s prisons as “one of the most pressing human rights issues in Canada.”

He reported that 32% of all federal inmates were Indigenous, with rates approaching 50% for Indigenous women. This “historic high” came at a time when the total number of people incarcerated in federal institutions was decreasing,

“On this trajectory, Canada will reach historic and unconscionable levels of Indigenous concentration in federal penitentiaries,” Zinger wrote, adding that he recommended that resources be reallocated to Indigenous communities and groups for “the care, custody and Indigenous monitoring”.

At the provincial level, the statistics are similar.

According to British Columbia Corrections.

Alphonse noted these grim numbers, citing them as one of the reasons he is so concerned that a crime plan that does not involve Indigenous leaders could harm Indigenous people.

He also said his community is grappling with some of the same issues that the council of mayors are sounding the alarm about, particularly around mental health and addictions.

“Crime and that kind of thing has really increased, maybe as a direct result of addiction issues and people having no contact with anybody. People who are heavily addicted are obviously going to try to maintain their lifestyle and , a lot of times that means they have to go out and commit crimes to facilitate,” he said.

“That’s the sad truth of what’s going on there.”

With files from Mary Cranston of CTV News Vancouver and CTV News Vancouver Island