We call upon the federal, provincial, and territorial governments to work with Aboriginal communities to provide culturally relevant services to inmates on issues such as substance abuse, family and domestic violence, and overcoming the experience of having been sexually abused.

Indigenous Watchdog Status Update

Current StatusSept. 5, 2021IN PROGRESS
Previous StatusJune 14, 2021IN PROGRESS

Why “In Progress”?

The information on CORCAN, although interesting from an education and employment perspective in an Aboriginal Healing Lodge context is not relevant to this Call to Action. Two relevant Budget 2017 funding allocations were announced:

  • Assisting Correctional Services Canada (CSC) through its community reintegration initiatives to engage Indigenous communities and organizations through contracts to provide addictions treatment, trauma counselling, gang disaffiliation and life skills support.
  • Indigenous Community Corrections Initiative for Public Safety Canada supports the development of community-based and culturally-relevant projects with a focus on alternatives to incarceration and reintegration support for Indigenous offenders. as well as other specific initiatives.

Some Provinces and Territories are also addressing C2A # 36 directly.

Indigenous Community Corrections Initiative

The Indigenous Community Corrections Initiative (ICCI) supports alternatives to custody and reintegration projects responsive to the unique circumstances of Indigenous people in Canada. ICCI projects provide culturally relevant services that may include counselling, treatment, life skills coaching, family reunification, and addressing the effects of residential schools and involvement with child welfare systems.

The ICCI provides contribution funding to March 31, 2022 to eligible recipients to develop tailored approaches that are responsive to the concerns, priorities and unique circumstances of Indigenous people.


The objectives of the Initiative are:

  • To support the development of alternatives to incarceration; and/or
  • To provide reintegration support.
Other Government Programs

British Columbia

Indigenous Justice Programs deliver programs and services in 34 communities throughout BC. The programs work to reduce victimization, crime
and incarceration among Indigenous people by offering individualized programs such as diversion, alternative measures, community work service, sentencing input, restorative justice and reintegration services. As part of this program, BC Corrections and the Justice Institute of British Columbia collaborate to train independent Indigenous justice workers to deliver:

  • Domestic violence programs;
  • Substance abuse programs; and
  • Training in alternative measures.

At our custody centres, Indigenous service providers offer spiritual leadership and culturally relevant programming to inmates. Several custody centres have dedicated spaces for sweat lodges, smudges, healing ceremonies and talking circles. Aboriginal Liaison Workers provide counselling and crisis intervention, and connect Indigenous inmates and offenders with groups that help them reintegrate into their communities. Elders and spiritual advisors also deliver cultural awareness programming to inmates from other ethnicities to help foster peace and understanding. (A Profile of BC Corrections, 2017)


May 3, 2018 – The Correctional Services and Reintegration Act, 2018 was passed today and will result in improved conditions, increased transparency, and will apply a consistent and evidence-based approach to rehabilitation and reintegration to better prepare those in custody for a successful and well-supported return to their communities. Specific to the Indigenous population:

  • Ensuring incarcerated individuals have access to appropriate health care services, including treatment of disease or injury, health promotion, disease prevention, dental care, vision-care, hearing care, mental health and addictions care, and traditional First Nation, Inuit, or Métis healing and medicines.
  • Better supporting rehabilitation and reintegration through individualized assessments completed for every admission. As part of an evidence-based approach to incarceration, case management plans will be tailored to address the unique needs of inmates to guide their rehabilitation.

Enhanced culturally-responsive programming will be implemented to meet the diverse and unique needs of Indigenous individuals and other over-represented groups to achieve successful reintegration.


Sept. 18, 2018 – Committed to work with Yukon First Nations to develop culturally relevant correctional programming and alternative environments for those with addiction or mental health issues and emphasized need for the entire justice system to improve its response to victims of sexualized violence – significantly and soon.”

Office of the Correctional Investigator

Annual Report 2017 – 2018

It has been nearly three years since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) issued its final report Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future (December 18, 2015), to which the Government of Canada committed to implementing all of the recommendations. Little practical progress has been made on the TRC’s ‘Calls to Action’ impacting federal corrections:

  • Eliminate the over-representation of Aboriginal people and youth in custody over the next decade
  • Implement community sanctions that will provide realistic alternatives to imprisonment for Aboriginal offenders and respond to the underlying causes of offending.
  • Eliminate barriers to the creation of additional Aboriginal healing lodges within the federal correctional system.
  • Enact statutory exemptions from mandatory minimum sentences of imprisonment for offenders affected by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
  • Reduce the rate of criminal victimization of Aboriginal people.

The Correctional Services Investigator recommendations include the following specific to Indigenous populations:

  1. that CSC creates and appoints a Deputy Commissioner level position for Indigenous Affairs to ensure that corporate attention and accountability remains focused on Indigenous issues in federal corrections.
  2. that CSC re-allocate very significant resources to negotiate new funding arrangements and agreements with appropriate partners and service providers to transfer care, custody and supervision of Indigenous people from prison to the community. This would include creation of new section 81 capacity in urban areas and section 84 placements in private residences. These new arrangements should return to the original vision of the Healing Lodges and include consultation with Elders. To honour the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s ‘calls to action,’
  3. that CSC spending, budget and resource allocation should better reflect the proportion of Indigenous people serving a federal sentence. Over the next decade, re-allocation of resources and delegation of control to Indigenous communities should be the stated goals of CSC’s contribution to reaching the TRC’s ‘calls to action.’
  4. that the CSC develop a National Gang and Dis-Affiliation Strategy and ensure sufficient resources are allocated for its implementation, inclusive of (core and cultural) programs, employment and services. Special attention should be paid to Indigenous-based street gangs. This strategy should:
    • be responsive to the unique needs of young Indigenous men and women offenders, including education and meaningful vocational opportunities;
    • ensure that non-gang affiliated young adult offenders are not placed where there are gang members who may attempt to recruit or intimidate them;
    • facilitate opportunities (e.g. workshops, seminars, public speakers, etc.) where young adults can engage with their culture and/or spirituality, and age-specific activities;
    • incorporate best practices and lessons learned from other jurisdictions and other public safety domain

Click to access annrpt20172018-eng.pdf

Annual Report 2016 – 2017

I recommend that CSC review its community release strategy for Indigenous offenders with a view to:

  • increase the number of Section 81 agreements to include community accommodation options for the care and custody of medium security inmates;
  • address discrepancies in funding arrangements between CSC and Aboriginal-managed Healing Lodge facilities, and;
  • maximize community interest and engagement in release planning for Indigenous offenders at the earliest opportunity.
Annual Report 2015 – 2016

I again recommend that CSC appoint a Deputy Commissioner for Indigenous Corrections.

I recommend that the Service develop new culturally appropriate and gender specific assessment tools, founded on Gladue principles, to be used with male and female Indigenous offenders. I recommend that CSC’s National Aboriginal Advisory Council (NAAC) review gaps and barriers to increased participation of Elders in federal corrections and publicly release its recommendations by the end of the fiscal year.

Canadian Bar Association

Responding to the TRC Calls to Action March 2016

The Canadian Bar Association endorses Call to Action # 36 (See above Call to Action 30)

Official Federal Government Response: Sept. 5, 2019

As part of its overall commitment to partnership in addressing the over representation of Indigenous peoples in custody and fostering the participation and engagement of Indigenous peoples in achieving public safety results, through the federal Budget 2017, the Government of Canada is providing $55.2 million over 5 years starting in fiscal year 2017 to 2018 and $10.9 million per year ongoing to Correctional Service of Canada (CSC). The 2017 federal Budget allocation is assisting CSC through its community reintegration initiatives to engage Indigenous communities and organizations through contracts to provide addictions treatment, trauma counseling, gang disaffiliation and life skills support.

In addition, CORCAN, a special operating agency of CSC is working closely with Indigenous communities in Alberta and Saskatchewan to enhance Indigenous offender access to employment opportunities in the community through offering additional on the job training in construction services, in particular as it relates to modular construction. This includes implementing CORCAN employment programs to develop offender’s skills in construction related areas at the CSC operated Healing Lodges and institutions in the Prairie Region as well as having opened 2 community industries in fiscal year 2018 to 2019, with 1 in Saskatoon and another in Edmonton. These community industries provide transitional employment, on-the-job and vocational training to offenders being released from federal correctional institutions. In fiscal year  2019 to 2020, implementation will commence in both British Columbia and Ontario to provide additional opportunities for Indigenous offenders in those regions, culminating in the opening of community industries in Ottawa and Vancouver.

Budget 2017 also provided $10 million over 5 years to Public Safety Canada for the Indigenous Community Corrections Initiative to support the development of community-based and culturally-relevant projects with a focus on alternatives to incarceration and reintegration support for Indigenous offenders. A call for proposals was launched at the end of 2017 and selected projects began before the end of the fiscal year.