In support of prisoners and prison justice activism in Canada
Maintoba Native Agencies To Handle Corrections Services

Native Agencies To Handle Corrections Services
May 31, 2005
CBC News

WINNIPEG – Aboriginal organizations signed a historic agreement with the province Tuesday to transfer the delivery of probation and community corrections services to First Nations and Métis organizations.

Justice Minister Gord Mackintosh signed a memorandum of understanding with the Manitoba Métis Federation, the Southern Chiefs Organization and the northern chiefs group Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak that will allow the establishment of new agencies to handle community corrections services to aboriginal people.

SCO Grand Chief Chris Henderson says the agreement will help create better ways to deal with First Nations people who come into conflict with the law.

"We're certainly hoping that if we have First Nations individuals who are put in those positions, they will certainly incorporate not only the current European-based model, but also incorporate some of the traditional beliefs and traditional practices of our First Nations cultures," he says.

More than 4,000 aboriginal and Métis Manitobans are currently on probation. Mackintosh says the change will mean those who are on probation can get the services they need closer to home.

"Aboriginal people on probation, who were usually in aboriginal communities, were being supervised from urban centres far away by non-aboriginal probation officers," he says. "They thought there was a serious problem with that."

Henderson says the First Nations and Métis groups will now meet with the province to discuss how to make the transition, a process that is expected to take several years.

Community justice services include the administration and supervision of probation, court orders, fine-option programs, pre-sentencing reports and programs ordered by the courts, such as addiction, sex-offender programming and anger management.

The new agencies will still be subject to the provisions of the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other federal and provincial legislation.

The agreement follows one of the recommendations of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry, released 14 years ago, which examined aboriginal people's experiences with the justice system in the wake of the 1988 shooting of native leader J.J. Harper.