Parliamentary Committee Notes: Overrepresentation (Indigenous Offenders)

Date: March 9, 2023
Classification: Unclassified
Fully releasable (ATIP)? Yes
Branch / Agency: CPB, Public Safety


The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) continues to see an increase in the proportion of federally sentenced Indigenous offenders. Despite accounting for approximately 5% of the adult population, Indigenous Peoples continue to be overrepresented in the federal correctional system, accounting for 28% of all federally sentenced individuals and 32% of all individuals in custody; and Indigenous women account for 50% of all federally incarcerated women.

Proposed Response:


The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) continues to see an overrepresentation of Indigenous offenders in CSC institutions. Despite accounting for approximately 5% of the adult population, Indigenous Peoples are disproportionately represented in the federal correctional system, accounting for 32% of all individuals in custody. This issue is further amplified in the context of female Indigenous offenders; As of April 2022, Indigenous women accounted for 50% of all federally incarcerated women. In addition to this, Indigenous women accounted for 65% of sentenced women in maximum security custodial centres across Canada.

Actions Taken

CSC and PS are working to respond to the disproportionate representation of Indigenous peoples in custody, and to support whole-of-government reconciliation efforts to align legislation, programs, and initiatives with articles in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the Declaration Act (UNDA) through a variety of programs and actions including:

Conditional Release and Reintegration

Alongside actions taken to address overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples within federal institutions, actions are also being taken in the context of release and reintegration.

The Gladue decision by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1999 found that judges must take into consideration the unique circumstances of Indigenous Peoples during sentencing. This decision had an impact on every aspect of the criminal justice system, including conditional release. As such, Parole Board of Canada decisions must be attentive to the systemic and background factors which may have contributed to an Indigenous offender’s engagement with the criminal justice system, and demonstrate consideration of those factors in their reasons for decision, which facilitates a more holistic and relevant picture of the offender.

There has been a significant increase in the percentage of discretionary releases for Indigenous offenders, from 23.5% in fiscal year 2013-2014 to 38.6% in fiscal year 2020-2021. Discretionary releases of offenders are increasingly successful, with results for Indigenous offenders at 38.6% in 2020-21 versus 28.9% in 2015-16.

CSC continues to increase the use of Section 84 releases. Section 84 of the CCRA provides a legal framework for CSC to engage with Indigenous communities in the release planning process for offenders who express an interest in returning to their identified community. CSC also continues to implement several reintegration initiatives that will strengthen reintegration support for Indigenous offenders as they transition from the institution to a life in the community. This includes project funding for Indigenous organizations delivering trauma and problematic substance use interventions, projects that address gang disaffiliation, and life skills interventions for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis offenders.


Prepared by: Jenna Smith, Correctional Policy Unit, CPB, (343) 548-0161
Approved by: Talal Dakalbab, SADM, CPB, (613) 852-1167

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