It is interesting to note that the Alberta Minister of Justice, Kathleen Ganley, has commented that she is disappointed that the numbers of incarcerated First Nations people have stayed the same even three years into the NDP government’s mandate. 40.3 per cent of people incarcerated in Alberta are First Nations people, though First Nations people make up six per cent of the Alberta population.
I believe that this is not purely a criminal justice issue but a historical, cultural and social justice concern. Behaviour and reactions to behaviour are much broader than merely criminalizing individuals even though our justice system typically holds people to account as individuals. We are not born, however, as solitary individuals but into families, who have a history that goes back generations. Indeed the influence of how families are affected generationally cannot and should not be minimized.
Inter-generational trauma and lifestyle is increasingly seen as a powerful predictor of future behaviours.
We once referred to incarceration decades ago as penal institutions where punishment for crimes was seen as the moral consequence for immorality. More recently we have called these institutions correctional facilities and yet I am unaware how much treatment or indeed correction goes into changing behaviour or functioning in Canadian correctional facilities.
It is good to see that Justice Minister Ganley is forward looking and optimistic. Hopefully she also recognizes that significant and meaningful social change often takes time. It involves a shift as to how an enlightened society deals with it’s members who are imbedded in their history and culture and how the overarching justice system needs to be deeply aware of that. As a recommendation I suggest on Breaking the Cycle on Netflix — a look at the Norwegian justice system and its enlightened approach to dealing with behaviour and lifestyle change.