A toddler martyred to native identity
Jonathan Kay, National Post
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
The article describes the circumstances of the suspicious death of a toddler who had been abandoned by his mother before he was a year old.
Gage …was given over to his great-aunt, a former car thief who’d been imprisoned for assault. A month later, the day after his second birthday, he died– allegedly after falling down the stairs. (Child services workers subsequently rescued Gage’s sister from the same home, covered in bruises.)
The article makes a very sensible recommendation:
It’s heartbreaking to study the details of Gage Guimond’s last days. But it’s something Canadians need to do. The Winnipeg toddler’s death is not just an excruciating human tragedy. It is also a perfect encapsulation of everything wrong with native policy in this country.
Canadian natives comprise about 3% of the Canadian population and roughly 30% of prison inmates. Here are somewhat more detailed statistics on that:
- …in 1991-1992, Native offenders accounted for 11% of total admissions to federal penitentiaries and 24% of admissions to provincial penitentiaries nationally, while the Native population only represented perhaps 2.3% of the total Canadian population (Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 1993:74; Statistics Canada, 1993a).
ALTERNATIVE PERSPECTIVES ON THE OVERREPRESENTATION OF NATIVE PEOPLES IN CANADIAN CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTIONS: THE CASE STUDY OF ALBERTA, by Xavier Cattarinich (Source text, PDF file, 310kB)
- According to Statistics Canada data, while the overall incarceration rate for non-Aboriginal people is 117 per 100,000 adults, the overall incarceration rate for Aboriginal people in Canada is estimated to be 1,024 per 100,000 or almost 9 times higher for Aboriginal persons.
- 2. 1 Aboriginal People in the Criminal justice SystemAboriginal people come into conflict with the law disproportionately to their representation in the general population. While representing 2.7 per cent of Canada’s population, self-identified Aboriginal people represent approximately 17 per cent of all admissions to federal institutions.
[In 1999], Adult Aboriginal people are incarcerated more than six times the national rate. In Saskatchewan, the adult Aboriginal incarceration rate is over 1,600 per 100,000, compared to 48 per 100,000 for adult non-Aboriginals. The number of Aboriginal offenders is expected to rise dramatically over the next decade due to the high rate of the Aboriginal youth population. Furthermore, according to data from the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics Homicide Survey, approximately fifteen per cent of all homicides victims in a given year were Aboriginal.
Facts and Figures Aboriginal community development in corrections Demographic Overview of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada and Aboriginal Offenders in Federal Corrections, Correctional Services Canada, last modified 2007-12-27, source text)