We call upon the federal government to provide more supports for Aboriginal programming in halfway houses and parole services.

Indigenous Watchdog Status Report

Current StatusOct. 4, 2021IN PROGRESS
Previous StatusSept. 5, 2021IN PROGRESS

Why “In Progress”?

Through Budget 2017 Correction Services of Canada (CSC) increased the number of Aboriginal Community Liaison Officers in urban centres to better respond to the needs of Indigenous offenders especially through halfway houses. Specifically, the job descriptions of the Liaison Officers is to work with Elders to facilitate, organize and coordinate traditional and spiritual ceremonies, social activities, as well as Aboriginal cultural programs.

CSC has also identified the use of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act Section 84 release process.  


Aboriginal Liaison Officer Job Descriptions

Aboriginal Community Liaison Officer:
Aboriginal Community Liaison Officers are based in the community (parole offices), not in CSC institutions. They monitor, support and motivate Aboriginal offenders. They work both with individual offenders and with groups. ACLOs provide support and guidance to Aboriginal offenders upon release and support their transition to the community. ACLOs work with and support Aboriginal parolees in their efforts to follow their community correctional plan. This includes referrals to Aboriginal specific community resources, hands-on support with accessing such services, and one-on-one counselling.

Aboriginal Community Liaison Officers work with Elders to facilitate, organize and coordinate traditional and spiritual ceremonies, social activities, as well as Aboriginal cultural programs. ACLO’s work to improve reintegration opportunities for Aboriginal offenders in the community. They are responsible for identifying needs and resources available to offenders on release. 

Aboriginal Liaison Officer:
ALOs work with and support Aboriginal offenders in their efforts to follow a traditional healing path. This includes taking a supportive role with respect to cultural awareness and a liaison role with respect to general services to Aboriginal offenders and staff. They work as a member of the Case Management Team to provide information regarding the offender’s participation in a traditional healing path. They work with the Elders, and document Elder Reviews and assist for in the maintenance of supplies of traditional medicines required by the Elder/Spiritual Advisor. They are also a link between the offender and the Aboriginal community. They also help Aboriginal offenders understand the rules for corrections and conditional release. Aboriginal Liaison Officers often work with Aboriginal agencies and communities to help offenders heal and eventually reintegrate into their home communities. 

Corrections and Conditional Release Act: Section 81 and 84

Two sections of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) provide the opportunity for Aboriginal communities to become active partners in the care and custody of Aboriginal offenders and the provision of correctional services.

Section 81:

Services that can be provided under Section 81 fall into four categories:

  • The transfer of an offender to an Aboriginal community under a Section 81 Custody Agreement;
  • The operation of an urban, or rural-based facility designed for Aboriginal offenders, to which more than one offender may be transferred or may reside while on conditional release (e.g., a halfway house, a healing lodge, etc.)
  • Parole supervision or services offered in the Aboriginal community or an urban center; and
  • Correctional services delivered within federal institutions or by community parole offices

Section 84:

Where an inmate who is applying for parole has expressed an interest in being released to an Aboriginal community the Service shall, if the inmate consents, give the Aboriginal community:

  • adequate notice of the inmate’s parole application; and
  • an opportunity to propose a plan for the inmate’s release to, and integration into, the Aboriginal community.
Office of Correctional Services Annual Reports: 2015-2020

Annual report: 2015 – 2016

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.

Annual Report: 2016 – 2017

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

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

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


Annual Report 2018 – 2019

Feb. 18, 2020 – Annual report tabled in House of Commons. The following are ten key recommendations common between two parliamentary committees (the House of Commons Standing Committees on Public Safety and National Security [SECU] and Status of Women [FEWO]) as well as recommendations my Office has made, and continues to call on federal corrections to implement:

  1. Increasing the number of Section 81 and 84 agreements and the ability of Indigenous inmates to access Healing Lodges.
  2. Validating existing risk assessment and classification tools and/or developing new tools that are more relevant to the realities of Indigenous peoples in the correctional system.
  3. Increasing access and availability of culturally-relevant correctional programming for Indigenous peoples.
  4. Increasing the number of Indigenous staff and providing training on Gladue and Aboriginal Social History to all staff to increase cultural competence, as well as enhance the relevance and effectiveness of services for Indigenous inmates.
  5. Improving and increasing engagement with Indigenous communities to provide reintegration services for Indigenous offenders being released back to the community.
  6. Increasing the availability of appropriate and relevant employment and educational programming and training that is informed by labour market needs.
  7. Improving screening, assessment and diagnosis of mental health issues, specifically Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
  8. Providing trauma-informed therapeutic approaches to programming and interventions, particularly for Indigenous women.
  9. Facilitating access to appropriate identification and health cards to all Indigenous offenders prior to their release.
  10. Appointing a deputy commissioner for Indigenous affairs within federal corrections.

Annual Report: 2019 – 2020

I recognize that many of the causes of Indigenous over-representation reside in factors beyond the criminal justice system. However, when I issued the statement, I noted that consistently poorer correctional outcomes for Indigenous offenders (e.g.)

  • more likely to be placed or classified as maximum security
  • more likely to be involved in use of force and self-injury incidents,
  • less likely to be granted conditional release

suggests that federal corrections makes its own contribution to the problem of over-representation. For example, a recent national recidivism study shows that Indigenous people reoffend or are returned to custody at much higher levels, as high as 65% for Indigenous men in the Prairie region within five years of release. A higher rate of readmission to custody (revocations or reoffending) suggests shortcomings in the system’s capacity to prepare and assist Indigenous offenders to live a law- abiding life after release from custody.

In the coming year, my Office will be launching a series of in-depth investigations examining
a selection of programs and services in CSC’s Indigenous Continuum of Care. The Office’s review of Indigenous Corrections will also include a deeper probe of the over-involvement of Indigenous offenders in use of force incidents including comparative data and findings on the causes, frequency, type and severity of force used. Preliminary and previous work in this area (e.g. An Investigation of the Treatment and Management of Chronic Self-Injury among Federally Sentenced Women, September 2013) suggests that specific attention needs to be paid to the circumstances and social histories of Indigenous women, particularly those who present with serious mental health issues, as they appear to be vastly over-represented in use of force incidents among federally sentenced women.

Canadian Bar Association

Responding to the TRC Calls to Action March 2016

The Canadian Bar Association endorses Call to Action # 37

Official Federal Government Response: Sept. 5, 2019

Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) has strengthened its support for offenders in the community through the Aboriginal Community Liaison Officers in urban centres as resources with halfway houses to connect Indigenous men and women offenders to culturally responsive services in the community. Aboriginal Community Liaison Officers mobilize and partner with Indigenous community agencies to provide wrap-around services, like access to Indigenous community services that are critical to offender release, for Indigenous offenders just before and upon release including at halfway houses. Through the federal Budget 2017, CSC has increased the number of Aboriginal Community Liaison Officers to better respond to the needs of Indigenous offenders including increasing the participation of Indigenous peoples and the use of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act Section 84 release process.

Through the Budget 2017 allocation, Public Safety Canada is supporting 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 fiscal year 2017 to 2018.